The international migration and the social and political impact on our professional and private life represent an opportunity to reflect on the cultural meaning of « travel & journey » beyond the superficial dimension of time-space, to adopt the GLOCAL approach suggested by the sociologist Zygmunt Barman, in order to develop a CONTEXTUAL INTELLIGENCE, the capacity to understand the limits of our knowledge and adapt it to different contexts and situations. As Martin Luther King once said, "Men hate each other because they fear each other, and they fear each other because they don't know each other.". Competent multicultural functioning means learning new patterns of behavior and effectively applying them in appropriate or varied settings, considering culture as dynamic and ever-changing, a life-long process. The tension between global integration and local responsiveness is especially high when we deliver services through people. While the “hardware skills” are relatively easily to achieve and master, the “software competences” require a more attentive and sensitive attitude from designing and staging an event to open subsidiaries or managing people.
« It’s precisely when you expect to have no problems that you end up having them » said Luc Minguet (head of group purchasing at Michelin in France), when he was the COO of the group’s U.S. truck business unit from 2002 to 2007: after just a couple of months, the HR head took him aside to suggest that he needed to show more sensitivity to U.S. cultural norms, as those differences were causing misunderstandings between his team and him. In France, as in Italy, we focus on identifying what’s wrong with someone’s performance. It’s considered unnecessary to mention what’s right. What’s good is taken as a given. But for a U.S. employee, it is devastating, because Americans tend to sugarcoat one negative with a lot of positives. Managing across cultures doesn’t stop with a training program, it’s a MIND-SET to practice every day. Today, when meeting new colleagues from different countries, Minguet says, “Here’s how I give feedback in my culture. How does it work in yours?”
As a planner, trainer and consultant I strongly believe that including the BUDGET OF INTERCULTURAL LEADERSHIP AND COMMUNICATION in the business plan would represent a good icebreaker and a must to quantify the loss related to our cultural mistakes and misunderstandings to be changed into reveue for the future. In the megatrends 2020-2030 of our industry we need to measure the impact of contexual intelligence and glocalization to make the difference as professionals. In the meantime, we can learn how to use The Culture Active Tool by Richard Lewis, available only for MPI Members, but be careful, if it’s not included in a business process, it coulnd’t be as effective as we could expect.
By Olimpia Ponno (Planner, Trainer, Past President MPI Italia Chapter)
Read full article (italian version)
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