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Cross-Cultural Leadership and Effective Communication

How vast is your mindset? Is it self-limiting? Do you believe in your potential?

How are your cross-cultural leadership and communication skills?

These are all questions I posed to myself as I explored extending my business internationally. As I thought about my own entrepreneurial journey, I’ve had to adjust my thinking to meet my existing clients and potential clients right where they are. So why couldn’t that be international and global? Woodrow Wilson once said, “The ear of the leader must ring with the voices of the people.” The voices of the people I wish to reach are international and even global because what God has placed within me extends far beyond the box in which I may have resided.

In extending my business on an international and global level, I considered the implications of cross-cultural leadership and communication. How must I adjust my own thinking to meet the expectations of my client? How will you adjust your thinking? When in Rome, you must do as the Romans.

Cross-cultural leadership and communication are both keys to a successful business abroad. To become or remain a successful global entrepreneur, you must learn to effectively work across cultures and be adept at leading and managing people of different cultures. You must build trust by listening to and understanding the “voices” so your client feels heard. This will be your biggest challenge or opportunity because we perceive the world and communicate in very different ways. We also view leaders and leadership very differently, which may create language barriers. Your aim must be to eradicate or lessen the barriers to prevent misunderstandings or messages that get lost in translation or even worst offend others. No matter your business, you will likely encounter cultural issues in many different guises.

The one critical and fundamental principle of success remains constant - the need for communication. Communication manifests in various forms - verbal and non-verbal. One area for significant opportunity for entrepreneurs abroad is to effectively and efficiently develop and maintain intercultural communication because work forces are predominantly multicultural. Many businesses continue to expand overseas; therefore, the homogeneous workforce in which you may be most familiar, will be very different. Because of the multicultural diversity, internal communication dictates your level of situational awareness must now increase. You must be certain you are being understood across cultural boundaries.

Here are several things you can do, from a cross-cultural leadership perspective, to be successful when conducting business internationally and globally:

1. Research cultural norms and behaviors: Do your research. This cannot be overstated. What may be acceptable in the United States will be very different in other countries. You must understand how others might perceive a gesture or clothing and follow suit. Remember, your goal is to listen to the “voice” and articulate the needs of the “voice;” meet them where they are, which may be very different than “your box.”

2. Leave your unconscious bias behind. Unconscious bias is an implicit form of prejudice. Specifically, unconscious biases are those social stereotypes we may have formed about a particular group or groups of people outside our own conscious awareness. There is no finger pointing here because we all have some unconscious beliefs about various social and identity groups, and these biases stem from our own tendency to organize social worlds by categorizing. You must develop your own personal awareness of your own cultural conditioning: We all have it, but are often unconscious about how it may affect us. Leadership is founded on understanding and managing self, which includes our own biases. When we know better, we should do better.

3. Become an emotionally intelligent (EI) leader: You must be acutely aware of your surroundings to make sound, objective decisions. All leaders may face a situation where their emotions may cause a decision to seem better than it is. EI provides the ability to truly comprehend the effects of your feelings and their role in your decision making. Leaders who possess EI are more likely to realize when pride and other emotions are influencing their thinking. EI is not optional; it is critical to your success bridging the divide across cultures. Leaders with EI have an innate ability to measure the responses by others to their words and actions, making it easier to determine if you are really being understood. You can then refine your messages accordingly, developing reliable ways of communicating with everyone. EI also makes it easier for you to listen to what other people are saying clearly or feeling and without judgment, ensuring that others can always give you the information you need.

4. Be patient: This may be the most difficult of all because as we all know, when we pray for patience, God will give us many of opportunities to exercise it, so be careful what you pray for. Seriously though, it will take time for your business to experience success abroad. Don’t give up, instead, go back to your “why.” When I start to feel a level of doubt, my “why” brings me back to reality and causes me to drive on.

Cross-cultural leadership and effectively communicating abroad will be a challenge. It will take you out of your comfort zone and cause you to step outside of your self-limiting box. Let me journey with you – globally and internationally – If you are challenged with cross culture leadership or seek to grow your depth of leadership across cultures click here and schedule some time to discuss cross-culture leadership or other leadership topics to increase your leadership lid.… let’s fly on!

Your brother in growth,

Dr. RickG

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