Adapting to Cultural Differences as a Global Manager

Global managers must realize that many of the business practices which work successfully in their home culture will not be appropriate in another country. Ensure that you are able to adjust your approach to suit different cultural contexts.

Adapting Successfully

To be effective, you need to be able to adapt in a new environment. However, adaptation does not equal adoption. For example, you are not trying to switch from being English to being Italian – this would make you appear foolish and manipulative. Adapt to show respect for another culture and to build relationships. For example, in a consensus culture, communicate in an indirect way, because this will make your hosts feel most comfortable.

Succeeding in Consensus Cultures

Relationships and long-term business goals are important in consensus cultures. Invest time in building lasting relationships and respect the formalities. For example, do not make someone “lose face” by criticizing them in public. Be patient and do not try to rush decisions. Also, be prepared for questions about yourself and your organization.

Succeeding in Autonomy Cultures

Members of autonomy cultures tend to be pragmatic, task-focused, and driven by quick results. They will like you to be flexible, but also decisive and action-oriented. Try to demonstrate optimism, confidence, and initiative when you are in this environment. Show how you can help individuals reach their goals, by selling yourself and your ideas. Time is money in such cultures, so be punctual and meet deadlines.

Cultural Differences

Some issues that you take for granted may be viewed very differently in another culture. Where different cultural expectations are not properly understood, deals can be lost and products can fail. For example, in Africa it is customary to illustrate food packaging using an image of the product inside. Thus it is inappropriate to put a picture of a baby on a jar of baby food.

Succeeding in Status Cultures

Business in status cultures is usually highly personal. Work at building trust, and show respect for your colleagues and your superiors. Be aware that a hierarchy exists and be careful not to cause unintentional offense. Always accept hospitality, because it is tied to honor. Expect lots of small talk – get down to business only when your counterpart gives you some cues. Expect many interruptions and be patient. Stay focused on timing rather than timekeeping.

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