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How to Communicate in a Global World
Canadians are increasingly part of a global world. Canada itself is a fascinating mix of different cultures and ethnic backgrounds. This diversity brings a richness that offers opportunities for both occupational and personal growth. It also brings substantial challenges, particularly as it relates to communication. Everything changes when you work with someone from a different culture: how you say hello, what is appropriate to talk about, how you shake hands, how you give or take an order, what is funny, what it means to be a man or a woman, the role of a boss, how you deal with time and space, and many other issues.
Here are six practical tips to navigate the challenging terrain of dealing with inter-cultural issues.
1. Remember what works in your own culture is exactly what might not work in another culture. What might seem routine could be very inappropriate with someone from another culture. This might involve anything from whether or not to have an agenda for the meeting, the number of people have on your negotiating team, how timely you should be for the meeting, the communication style you use, and whether or not your agreement should be put in writing.
2. Build solid relationships before getting down to business. Not much is likely to get accomplished unless you intercultural counterpart feels good about dealing with you. For one thing, smile. A genuine smile is a universal lubricant that says, "I enjoy doing business with you." Keep in mind that building a relationship with your intercultural counterpart will usually take a lot more time than what you may used to. Intercultural negotiations may take two or three times what you might experience in Canada.
3. Be yourself, but be an effective foreigner. This has to do with respect. You don't have to go native, but adapt your behaviour to those with different cultural backgrounds from you. Be culturally literate if you're traveling outside Canada - know how to read behaviors in the host country culture. Most people will give you an "A" for effort when they see that you are trying to learn about their culture.
4. Use language that is simple and accessible. Avoid slang and jargon. Terms like, "Let's cut to the chase," or "you can't squeeze blood out of a turnip" may or may not make sense if you're from Canada, but are less likely to be understandable elsewhere. Ask for clarification. Avoid telling jokes - they almost never make sense to someone from another culture.
5. Don't judge behaviour in old ways, and try to expand your comfort zones. Because a Brazilian gives you a hug upon greeting you, or stands close to you when talking, does not mean the person is pushy. The person is expressing friendship. Because an Indonesian does not sustain eye contact does not mean he's unassertive.
6. Adopt the Platinum Rule. Do unto others as they would have done unto them. This may not be what you would like to have done unto you. For instance, you might like a firm handshake or feel comfortable getting on a first-name basis early in a business discussion. This could be an affront to your counterpart in many parts of the world.
Managing in a Multicultural Environment
Effectively managing a multicultural business requires at least a basic knowledge of your employee's culture and traditions. Familiarity with both is essential because each has a bearing on an employee's every day behavior.
Our cultural identity helps us feel like we are "part" of the society around us. It keeps us from feeling isolated and sometimes it even helps us know how to react. For example, as Americans, we know it's appropriate to stand and place our hands over our hearts when we hear "The Star Spangled Banner" because it's part of our culture.
Traditions involving family, religion, education, and nationalism play a large role in anyone's life. Personal appearance, ethics, and etiquette are also factors to be considered.
Whether we realize it or not, culture and tradition are powerful principles we always carry with us. It's almost like carrying a cell phone. We take it for granted that our phone is in out pocket, but we don't think about it until it rings. Culture is like that. It's always with us even though we are unaware of it.
What rings your cultural bell?
Even though it's hard to make broad generalizations about culture, many studies have been conducted over the years on its importance to Hispanics. There are certain basic principles about Latino culture and tradition that make good survival skills for all American employers.
Family: Nuclear families are the foundation of Hispanic society. An intense love of family is a strong feature in Latinos employees.
To most, the family and its needs are even more important than work. Work is often seen as a "necessary evil" done for the purpose of earning enough money to satisfy the needs of the family.
As managers, we must also take into consideration the fact that many Hispanic employees have left close members of their families in Latin America. This is true for both first and second generation Hispanic employees.
Personal sacrifice in Hispanic families is the rule, not the exception. The estrangement and isolation that comes with being separated from parents, wives and children can be devastating. This causes severe depression, isolation and even substance abuse. Each of these becomes high risk factors for on the job accidents.
Children: Children in Latino families are cherished, protected and loved. A typical weekend is spent enjoying time together, preparing meals, visiting friends, or extended family. Children are more heavily influenced by their parents and extended family members rather than by those outside the family.
Religion: Religion and spirituality are also deeply rooted in Latin American culture. Almost 90% Latin Americans are Roman Catholic and most observe basic religious traditions, even though they might not attend church on a regular basis.
Throughout Latin America religious practices play a more visible role in the workplace than they do in the US. Many Hispanic managers feel these practices make a valuable contribution to overall worker morale.
An unusual feature of Latin American spirituality is an indefinable fatalism or fatalismo which is pervasive in the culture. Many Latinos have the underlying sense that their lives are controlled by fate; consequently, whatever success or tragedy befalls them is no result of their own actions. Whatever is supposed to happen, will happen.
This is almost opposite of the American belief that our success or lack of it depends solely on the choices we make and the hard work we put into it.
Nationalism: Nationalism is deeply ingrained in Hispanics. This is a fact that most Americans don't realize fully. When we see a person speaking Spanish, many automatically assume that the person is Mexican. Often that just isn't true. Spanish is spoken over a wide geographic area that includes many very different countries.
All of us are deeply proud of our roots. Latin Americans have deep attachments to their homelands and the unique culture that comes with that. Because you speak English, would you like to be mistaken for a Canadian instead of an American? Probably not!
It's savvy management for employers to know which countries their employees come from. Getting to know individual employees is a basic feature in successful Latin American management strategies. The boss becomes personally acquainted with each employee and knows a bit about his family. This is called "personalizmo" and it's very important to workplace attitudes.
When "el jefe" or "el supervisor" recognizes an individual employee, he feels more respected and valued. That increases his loyalty to the company and to its leadership.
Etiquette: Basic etiquette and social skills are valued by Latin Americans. Good manners are a sign of solid upbringing. Training begins at the home and continues in school. Great emphasis is attached to shaking hands and greeting the staff each morning in the workplace.
Not only is this sort of etiquette valued in face to face interactions, it's also a part of good telephone communication. In a Latin American's eyes it's rude to "cut to the chase" on the telephone and immediately begin to discuss business without first asking how the person is that you are talking to. Next, to be truly polite you should ask how the family is doing.
Etiquette is so important on the job many think "por favor" and "gracias" are the two most important phrases in the Spanish language. These are definitely words that will help you get the job done.
Strategies for Success: There's no doubt that America's Hispanic workforce is going to become even more important to our country's economic growth and success. Now that you understand some of the basic attitudes your Hispanic workforce has, it's time to plot a course for your success in a multicultural environment.
1. Work aggressively to overcome the language barrier. Obviously, this means learning to speak some Spanish. You don't have to be fluent to be successful.
2. Make every effort to learn about the culture of your employees. This will help you build trusting relationships that Latinos value.
3. Develop an open culture in your workplace that accepts and appreciates the differences individual employees bring to your organization.
4. Establish employment policies carefully and communicate them so all employees understand your expectations for appropriate conduct on the job.
5. Acknowledge your employee's strong family ties and desire to return home periodically. Make every effort to develop staffing that is flexible enough to allow employees to return home for a period of time to visit their families and then return to the job.
Learning these simple, common-sense practices and principles will give you a positive edge in managing your multicultural work place.
1 Read the article and answer the following questions:
1. The conflict between globalization and localization has led to the invention of the word “globalization”. How would you explain the concept of “globalization”?
2. Is it possible for multinational companies to use similar management methods in all their foreign subsidiaries? Should they adapt their methods to the local culture in each country or continent?
3. Prove that cultural awareness is important for businesspeople (use examples from the articles).
4. Do you think cultures are becoming more alike? Is this a good thing or a bad thing?
5. How can cultural differences affect doing business? Give examples from the articles.
6. Do you believe that it is possible to sum up national characteristics in a few words (like in the article “Managing in a Multicultural Environment”)? Is there any truth in such stereotypes? Do you find such stereotypes useful or dangerous?
7. Could you exemplify the ten commandments of intercultural communication?
8. Are there any other tips concerning cross cultural management you would like to add to those mentioned in the articles?
Is Management For Me?
Examine The Pros And Cons Of Taking A Management Path In Your Career. Are you wondering whether you want to be a manager, deciding if a management path is right for your career? Maybe the company has suggested a supervisory position for you. Maybe someone in your life is pushing you to "make more out of your life," Or are you trying to decide whether to get you Masters degree in your technical specialty or go for an MBA instead.
Whatever the reason you are considering a management career, this article will help you decide whether or not management is for you.
The Upside of Being a Manager There are many positives to being a manager. Managers generally are paid more than others in the company. They appear to have more power. And the power and pay differences tend to give the position more status or prestige.
Pay Certainly the top manager in a company, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) is paid more than anyone else in the company. Managers below the CEO are generally paid more than everyone in their group as well, but not always. I managed a group of scientists in which the very top scientists were paid more than 1. Smart companies pay their people based on their value to the company, not on their title or position, and in that company, key scientists were more valuable than their manager.
Power Most people, including most managers, believe that managers have more power than the people in their groups. While it's true that managers commonly have certain functional authority delegated to them, like setting work schedules for the group, true power cannot be delegated to you from above. You are only as powerful as you are capable of making your group more successful. And while your ability to lead the group greatly influences it, your power comes from the willingness of the people in your group to grant it to you.
Status/Prestige In our society, people value titles. A title of Senior Vice President, Worldwide Marketing sounds much more impressive than Research Chemist. However, the marketing person may work for a 3-person company and make $30,000 per year while the chemist works for a major oil company, supervises 4 other chemists, and makes well over $100,000 per year.
Sense of Personal Accomplishment If your goal is to be CEO of General Motors, you probably should start now on a management career, If you want to be President of the United States, a management track isn't required. Several recent Presidents have managed nothing but their campaigns. If you want to brag to your mother-in-law about what a success you are, and power, prestige, and money are important to your definition of success, management may be they way to go. If you measure success by friendships and how soundly you sleep at night, a management career can give you that, but so can many others.
The Downside of Being a Manager Nobody likes the boss and it's lonely at the top. You're the person who always has to make the decision, right or wrong, and somebody is always out for your job. On top of that there are legal liabilities that non-managers don't have as well as financial restrictions.
Lonely At The Top You are not as close to the employees in your group when you are the boss. You can't afford to be. A manager needs to be a little removed from the employees in order to objectively make the hard decisions.
Many first time supervisors, promoted from within the group to supervise it, are amazed at how quickly former friends become cold and distant. Even an experienced manager, brought in from outside, finds the employees more aloof than they are with each other.
No Immediate Reinforcement A painter gets almost immediate feedback on whether or not he's doing a good job. Is the paint the right color; is it going where it should. A programmer also finds out pretty quickly whether or not a new sub-routine runs, Management isn't that way. Goals are usually more long-term, quarterly or even annual. The real measure of a manager's success, an improvement in their people management skill is even more long term and more difficult to manage.
If you want immediate feedback on how well you're doing, try widget manufacturing. If you can wait months or longer for feedback, management may be for you.
Buck Stops Here You may, and in most cases should, have your employees make many of their own decisions. However, ultimately the responsibility for the final decision rests with the manager. When it appeared that insulation might have damaged the space shuttle wing, it was a manager who had to make the decision. It's the manager's job to make the decision, right or wrong.
Somebody Always Wants Your Job There is always someone after your job. Sometimes several people are. As a first line supervisor, you may have several people in your group who think they could do your job better and are actively working to get that chance. As CEO of a company, you have several people within your own organization who want your job and more people on the outside who are after it as well. They may not agree with the decisions you made (see above) or felt they could have made better decisions. You may have actually made a wrong decision and they will use that as leverage to try and push you aside.
The higher you go in any organization, the fewer positions there are at that level and the more competition there is for them.
Legal Liabilities Managers have legal liabilities that most workers don't. Managers frequently have to sign documents, they have to ensure the workplace is free from harassment, they have to keep their people safe. If a manager fails in any of these responsibilities, they may be held legally liable. Financial Restrictions Managers often have financial restrictions placed on them because of their position. The most common of these are the insider trading restrictions. The insiders list at a company is almost exclusively managers. While a worker can exercise stock options or trade in the company stock whenever they wish, the managers on the insider list are restricted to windows of time that exclude immediately before and after quarterly financial results are announced.
Weigh the Pros and Cons To decide whether a career in management is right for you, you have to weigh the pros and cons. You have to decide what's best for you, not what matters to someone else. If power, pay, and prestige are important to you, you may want to consider a career in management. However, if you don't like being legally or financially responsible for the actions of others, management may be a bad choice. In the real world, it's not going to be that cut and dried. There will be some things about management that appeal to you and others that don't. You have to weigh all the factors and decide.
Bottom Line Management as a career path is not right for everyone. You have to like responsibility. You have to enjoy working with people. You have to be able to deal with uncertainty and making decisions when you never seem to have all the facts in time. You probably will get paid more, but believe me you'll earn it.
However, when it all comes together; when all your people are pulling together toward the same goal and setting new records it can be a great feeling. When you see someone you trained go off on their own and become successful, you can take a certain amount of pride for having helped them get started. Management can be frustrating, and a lot of hard work, but I'm glad it's the choice I made.
Next Steps If you decide management is not for you, great. We all need talented people in our groups. If you decide you do want to start down the management path, start with this page of helpful information I put together for Managers just starting out: Beginning Management.
1 Read the article and summarize pros and cons of a management career.
Understanding Matrix Management
Matrix management came about as organizations recognized that, in an increasingly complex business world, they needed to provide balance between the key drivers of their business and find a more effective way of employing the skills and talents of individuals within their organization. It is a management system based on two or more employee reporting systems, linked both to the vertical organizational hierarchy, and to horizontal relationships. In other words, any employee within a matrix organization, reports upwards to superiors and, based on geographic product, or project requirements, may also report sideways to peers.
Under a matrix management system employees can be directed to where they are most needed and add the most value, for both the short term and long term.
Before you implement a matrix structure in your organization, be sure it is right for your business and its future strategy, and fits the skills and competences of your people.
What You Need to Know
On the surface it appears that the organization is the winner. A matrix structure can maximize the use it makes of individual skills while minimizing the burden on management. On the other hand, matrix structures bring new pressures on those who run the business. They have less control and are required to communicate more effectively. They need to introduce the systems and procedures that allow some control, but do not stifle the business-systems that encourage flexibility, yet ensure that conflicting needs do not hamper decision-making processes-as well as set the balance between responsibility and accountability for individuals. If they get it right, matrix management can be as good for the individual as it is for the organization.
In many organizations, management is either predominantly vertical or predominantly horizontal. Where matrix management has been introduced relatively recently, organizations are still learning how to manage both vertically and horizontally. Matrix management tries to provide the flexibility and responsiveness needed to be competitive. Balance means understanding the business issues and creating boundaries for roles to ensure that value is added. Too often, not enough time is spent clarifying what individuals, roles, and teams can contribute.
Matrix management has been used successfully for years by many well-established businesses -particularly in project management. For it to work the business case must be strong and the senior team must be committed to managing it well. This requires a clear understanding of the organization's objectives and of individuals' capabilities. The right systems, procedures, and resources need to be in place to meet these objectives, and management must be disciplined in not over-utilizing the human and physical resource.
In a poorly-implemented system, this can easily happen -which is why it is so important to clearly understand present procedures, how they should be modified, and how the matrix roles should be shaped to match the capabilities of the people in them. Training developments are key to the matrix's success. Allowing sufficient time is also essential-time for transition from the old to the new way of working, time for people to fine-tune their individual approaches, and especially time for planning. Communicating expectations to the people in the roles and to the rest of the business will help to cement success.
What to Do?
Think Before You Act
Changing an organization's structure is a major upheaval, so it is important to have mechanisms in place to help individuals, teams, and decision-makers cope with the inevitable disruption and confusion. It is also vital to be sure that such a change is right for your strategy and the business, and that you have the capability to deliver it. The following sections outline the points to consider in making the decision and the stages involved in implementing the change, should you decide to go ahead with it.
There are many organization evaluation tools available, which can help you analyze which structures work best for your business, given its culture, products and services, and market environment.
Implement the New System
Matrix management moves away from the hierarchical structures, clearly-defined lines of responsibility, and formal communication and decision-making channels that most businesses have become accustomed to. It is a culture change that will need to be planned and managed over time, and not everyone will be comfortable with it. Be prepared for some casualties along the way, particularly among those who have a personal investment in their role or status in the hierarchy.
You will need to create new channels of communication so that you can monitor progress and receive feedback on the effectiveness of the matrix. Matrices tend to be dynamic, creating ongoing challenges and requiring ongoing decision making.
Steps in the implementation process should include:
As we all know, successful organizations adapt to their environment. Regular reviews will help to identify any changes you need to make. Changes can be process oriented or structural in nature. Be prepared to redefine roles and move individuals. It is not easy to get the right balance between fluidity and structure, but the success of your matrix may depend on it.
What to Avoid
You Imitate Competitors
When we see our competitors moving to a matrix structure, we may assume that they have the key to achieving a competitive edge and that we must follow suit. This is a mistake; their culture may be more suited to this type of structure. Understanding your own business drivers, what is best for you, the talent you have, and the pressures you may be under are the only relevant factors to consider in making the decision to move to a matrix.
1 Read the article and answer the following questions:
1 What were the reasons for matrix management to come about?
2 To what extent can matrix structures be as good for the individuals as for the organizations?
3 What do you need to do to introduce matrix management?
4 What are the terms for this type of management structure to be a success?
5 What measures help to cement the success?
6 How is it possible to implement the new system?
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