Page 2 - VOICE December 2014

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naturally: it is very hard to see ourselves as others
see us. Assessment and measurement can help. This
could be through one of the many psychometric
tests on the market, through videoing team meet-
ings, or through a cultural assessment. Culture Ac-
tive
is one such assess-
ment, based on the Lewis Model of Culture, which
classifies cultures into three main types; Germanic,
Anglo-Saxon and Nordic cultures tend to be more
Linear-Active. Latin, African and Middle Eastern cul-
tures more Multi-Active and East Asian cultures
more Reactive (See Image 1 for a detailed descrip-
tion of these three categories). Of course individuals
from any culture can get assessment scores a long
way from what is the statistical average for their
culture.
Team members (or whole departments or compa-
nies) are automatically mapped onto a triangle – as
seen in Image 2 – once everyone has completed an
assessment, and the results are used to heighten
awareness and generate open discussion about how
to work together more productively.
2)
They are good at closing, or bridging the gaps
between diverse team members. A key way to
achieve this is through modifying our communica-
tion style, and putting ourselves in the shoes of our
listeners. I once experienced a great example of this
technique on a Lufthansa flight. We experienced
very bad turbulence, and the pilot explained the sit-
uation in a highly “Germanic” way to the German
passengers – full of technical details, context and
background, in long sentences with many clauses.
This use of grammatically complex, synthetic Ger-
man language was able to satisfy the German pref-
erence for complex explanations. Then, when the
pilot switched to his perfect American English, all he
said was, “Well … as you can see, we are on a bit of a
rollercoaster, so just sit back, tighten your seatbelts
and enjooooooy the ride!” For the Americans, the
fact that the pilot sounded relaxed and humorous
was enough.
In teams, members need to be aware of their own
and others’ communication styles and at least try
and come half way. Many misunderstandings are
also caused by a mixture of direct and indirect styles
within the team. The British philosopher, John
Locke, believed that the vast majority of human mis-
understanding was actually verbal.
3)
They are good at integrating dif-
ferent approaches. The Economist
Intelligence Unit’s 2012 report
Com-
peting Across Borders
claimed that a
significant number of companies are
stuck at the stage where the benefits
of overcoming cultural barriers are
recognized but not enough is done to
address the challenge. This is true not only
for companies as a whole, but also at team
level. So, it is all very well having diverse skills, but
often insufficient attention is paid to actually taking
advantage of these skills. Communication plays a
part here as well. Probably of all three cultural
types, the most under-used, least integrated in in-
ternational teams is the “Reactive”. Reactives tend
In teams, members need to be aware
of their own and others’
communication styles and at least try
and come half way. Many
misunderstandings are also caused by
a mixture of direct and indirect styles
within the team.”
Image 1
Image 2
Michael Gates