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Ten Key Cross-Cultural Management Skills

Unlike technical knowledge, intercultural awareness and skill are not something you can achieve just by reading a "how-to" manual or learning a simple formula.

How people's cultural backgrounds play themselves out is obvious in some ways and quite subtle in others. Appearance, names, language, accents, artifacts and shared worlds of reference are visible at once. Intangibles, however - attitudes towards time, commitments, success, status, authority, accountability, planning, negotiation, rewards, teamwork, personal boundaries and social interactions - are not immediately apparent.

To be effective as a global IT manager, you need to be aware of the major underlying cultural values that have implications for business relations and organizational functioning. The skills you need are those "soft" skills, which are, in fact, considerably harder to acquire than the "hard" technical skills.

Some managers are fortunate to have innate strength in these areas, most need education and training, a few are so inept that it would be better to keep them out of crucial global management responsibilities.

Do you want to assess your ability to succeed in global management? Are you are looking to appoint someone to a key position? Are you seeking to make your multicultural teams more effective? Are you trying to define an appropriate management style for your global company?

If so, pay close attention to developing the ten winning skills for managing in a culturally diverse environment:

  1. Self-knowledge: understanding your own cultural values and how they affect your attitudes and behaviors.

  2. Global thinking: staying informed on global trends and events.

  3. Cultural curiosity: observing cultural behaviors in a non-judgmental way.

  4. Flexibility: adapting gracefully to a wide spectrum of operational practices, business styles, and social environments.

  5. Inclusivity: making people of different backgrounds feel at ease, understood, and valued for their perspectives.

  6. Managing diversity: getting people who are from different backgrounds to work together effectively as unified teams.

  7. Interpersonal communication: expressing yourself persuasively while genuinely hearing what others are communicating to you.

  8. Motivational leadership: leading in ways that inspire employees to take responsibility and initiative, collaborate, and contribute the creativity of their differences.

  9. Credibility: exercising integrity, openness, trustworthy behavior, and candor in all your interpersonal dealings.

  10. Patience: working with other people's needs and timetables, keeping your focus on long-term goals, and not wasting your goodwill capital on getting immediate results.

© Karine Schomer. All Rights Reserved. Originally published in Siliconindia, June 2000. Permission to reprint is granted, provided the article and byline are printed intact, with all links visible and made live if distributed in electronic form.

Karine Schomer, PhD is President of Change Management Consulting & Training, LLC, and leads The CMCT India Practice, specializing in cross-cultural training and management consulting for doing business with India, competitive advantage through cross-cultural awareness, business etiquette and protocols, cross-cultural communication and teamwork skills, outsourcing management best practices, and offshore team leadership strategies. For more learning resources, check The Working and Managing Across Cultures Blog.