Changing cultures

The current senior management generation faces huge challenges when a managing outsourced, acquired or remote company satellites. Current senior managers tend to have been influenced by the experience of their managers and the generation before.

But the pace of technological change over the course of their lifetimes has changed the skills required management faster than at any point in history. The ‘kudos’ within organizations is no longer necessarily job title, although, of course, this has its place: there’s a leaning towards skills and knowledge.

Cultural awareness has become just a tiny part of the mix when working with teams overseas. People can quickly bypass some of the cultural issues. For example, German and Indian cultures have some elements that are diametrically opposed. Yet once people start communicating, the respect that develops for pockets of expertise is incredible.

Newer entrants to the workforce have less problems with reaching out across cultures: most have grown up in an environment where they are acclimatised to multiculturalism, to being technologically connected, to managing multiple communication channels and constant change. They are more culturally exposed (and by this I don’t just mean exposed to different cultures).

Today, command and control often needs to be replaced with connection, community and passion as bywords for success.

A lot of cultural training such as that offered by language schools, focuses on the shallower external elements of this: the greetings, the hand to eat it (or not). Whilst these are important signs of respect, the challenges of multicultural working run deeper than these elements, and the skill sets required to work with someone you can’t see go way beyond simply understanding how a culture works.

Cross cultural training has dimensions well beyond superficial cultural elements. The challenges are greater than ever before: but get it right and huge rewards are there on a personal, as well as corporate, level.

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