Category Archives: International Partnership

Are two heads from different cultures better than two heads from one culture?

When I arrived to Spain I didn’t really know or plan which way my coaching business would go. I knew that my international clients would keep finding me through internet, but I wasn’t sure what direction my practice would take in my new home. Would I be offering workshops? Giving presentations? Doing group coaching? Or working with clients individually?

With all these unanswered questions in the back of my mind, I decided to leave the decisions to the Universe and the field open to experimentation. You never know what life is going to offer you, right? Trying to push and control things never really worked for me and I always ended up disappointed and uninspired.

Days into this “non-plan” I made a new friend – a friend, who is also a coach but a coach from a different country and with a different training. And then I met another new friend. We got together for coffees and lunches and what do you know? A new, exciting idea began to take root and now the three of us are working together to develop it. Because of our different cultures, different backgrounds, and different trainings we come to this idea from three (or more!) different directions – a perfect recipe for both learning lots from each other and creating something fresh. It’s like fusion cuisine at its very best!

What about you? If you are an entrepreneur or a business owner who’s had to move her/his business to another country – what has been your experience in putting your efforts together with people from different places and walks of life?

Diversity=Creativity!

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Creativity and Cross-Cultural Ties — is there really a connection?

In a recent BNET blog (5 Ways to Foster Innovation) Kimberly Weisul says that:

“Roy Chua, of Harvard, believes that creativity is not necessarily about coming up with something totally new. Instead, he says, “most often it is about connecting ideas to create something different. If you have a multicultural social network, you are more likely to receive ideas that are different.” Chua surveyed a group of media professionals about their social networks, and then asked each to brainstorm about the future of the newspaper industry. A group of outside judges ranked the ideas based on how creative they were, and it turned out those professionals with ore multicultural social networks came up with more creative ideas. Chua conducted a similar experiment with college students, surveying their social networks and asking them to come up with a new advertising campaign for a fruit drink. Those with more contact with different cultures came up with more creative ideas.”

Now we’ve heard before that moving to another country and becoming an expat encourages creativity just for the simple reason of being in a different environment and being exposed to new perspectives.  By the same token, cross-cultural interactions and connections do the same job of exposing us to different perspectives and ideas.  But what’s our role here and who do we have to be to actually become more creative?

There are a couple of traits I think are very useful in taking advantage of your cross-cultural ties when it comes to becoming more creative:

  • Open-mindedness – if we are closed to new perspectives and ideas, no amount of them around us will help;
  • Courage – new things can be scary and taking them on can be even scarier;
  • Curiosity – digging deeper is part of adopting something new.

What do you think?  What other traits can be helpful here?

Want to take advantage of this opportunity to become more creative and productive when working across cultures? We have a couple of openings for executives who want to improve their intercultural competency.  Our individual cross-cultural coaching program is based on Culture Mastery 4 C’s Process™ — the program that helps people build their cultural competency.  For more details please visit here.

A coach or a trainer? Want to help your clients improve their intercultural competence?  Get licensed to use Culture Mastery 4 C’s Process™ in the upcoming webinar.

A cultural blunder in one of the world’s most international sites – what was Facebook thinking?!

We all heard of cultural gaffes that either hurt business partnerships, slow them down or completely undermine them.  Classic textbook examples tell us about cultural faux pas during meetings, cultural mistakes in advertising design, and cultural errors in negotiations.  All companies go through this experience at least once in their international business deals and apparently Facebook isn’t an exception (although, in all honesty, I didn’t expect the site that brought together people from so many different countries and walks of life to be so clueless when it comes to cultural sensitivity).

A couple of days ago, I saw the following announcement from Facebook Russia:  Всем, кто ожидает прибавления в семействе – теперь вы можете сообщить об этом вашим друзьям на Facebook. Cделать это можно в настройках профиля, во вкладке “Друзья и семья” в предлагаемом списке членов семьи нужно выбрать вариант “будущий член семьи: ребенок”, ввести имя ребенка, если оно уже выбрано, и предполагаемую дату рождения. Эта информация появится на вкладке “Семья” на левой панели вашего профиля.”

Translation:

“For all of you who are expecting an addition in the family – you can now let your friends know about it on Facebook. Go to your profile and in the “Friends and Family” choose the optionl “future member of the family: a child”, enter the name of the child if it is already selected, and the anticipated date of birth. This information will appear under “Family” on the left sidebar of your profile.”

My jaw dropped when I saw that.  And I didn’t really have to read the already accumulated comments from more than 60 people to know how this one is going to land. In a country where superstitions run high, people just don’t share their impending family additions with many – let alone with the whole Facebook world.

What were you thinking, Facebook?

Introducing the UK

The United Kingdom is one of the countries that’s profiled in the Global Coach Center Academy within the course “Living and Working in the UK” In this post we interview one of the course’s co-trainers on some of the most interesting tidbits on the UK.

Louise Wiles is from England, thinks of herself as British but has been living abroad for much of the last fifteen years. Currently she lives in Lisbon with her husband and two daughters. From there she runs her business Success Abroad Coaching, providing support for accompanying partners during their relocation process; helping them to create successful portable lives and careers abroad.

Global Coach Center Blog (GCC Blog):  What would be 1 to 3 tips you’d give to someone who is moving to the UK?

Louise:

1.  Recognise the diversity:

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is made up of four distinct countries and it is important to remember this. People from Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland are proud of their national identities and cultural origins which differ from those of the English. Remember, people who live in the UK are not all English!

In addition to this cultural mix two hundred different nationalities are represented in the UK with over ten percent of the population having been born outside of the UK. The extent to which visitors are exposed to this cultural mix will depend on where they are located in the UK. However once you move into the smaller cities, towns and rural areas you will find the population less diverse in its origin and more identifiably British.

2. Reserved but not unfriendly:

Generally people from the Southern England are said to be more reserved and less friendly than those from Northern England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. As a big “softie southerner myself” (softie because life is said to be easier in the south) I take exception to this but grudgingly admit it holds some truth.

As an individualistic culture, the British especially the English can seem very self orientated and not overly friendly. People often have a wide number of acquaintances and a small number of very close friends. Bear this in mind – people will be happy to chat, go out for drinks after work but beyond this it may take time for them to include you in their more immediate circle of friends and home life.

3.  Humour:

Ah yes, the great British sense of humour and it is hugely refreshing for us Brits, but often simply puzzling for foreigners. We are a nation that can and does enjoy laughing at ourselves. We take ourselves quite lightly and sarcasm is a regular work place feature. Intense situations may be lightened by a bit of humour, which can seem wholly inappropriate to the foreigner.

4.  Language:

The main language spoken in the UK is English, although sometimes you may be hard-pressed to recognise it as such! There are big regional differences from the perspective of accent and colloquial phrases. You will be challenged as you learn English especially if you travel the country widely. However, sadly Brits speak very few other languages fluently and so if you want to survive and thrive in the UK you must learn to speak English well.

GCC Blog:  What do you love about the UK?

Louise:  I love the beautiful UK countryside, the pubs, the friendliness (generally), the humour, the entertainment options, the shopping, the food (yes really!), the summer sporting events and sometimes the weather.

GCC Blog:  What do you dislike about living in the UK?

Louise:  Lets start with the obvious – the weather! Having just been in the UK for a week and having had three days of solid rain I have been reminded about how restricting and frustrating the UK weather can be. However the rain is what makes the UK countryside so green and beautiful, so of course there is an upside!

Traffic jams and congestion on the roads and railways making long and tedious commutes is one of the more unattractive aspects of life especially around London and other major cities. Expense is another life in the UK does not come cheaply. Be prepared, do your research carefully and plan for a high cost of living.

GCC Blog:  What’s the most popular proverb and why?

Louise:  I don’t know what the most popular proverb is statistically but a favourite one from my childhood:

“A Stitch in time saves nine”

Meaning that acting early can save a lot of time later on.

GCC blog: How can the “Living and Working in the UK” course can help expats?

Louise:  I am delighted to have worked together with the Global Coach Center to create this Living and Working in the UK programme. My expatriate experience, my background as a trainer and coach and my in-depth knowledge of the UK, together with Margarita’s unique system to crossing cultures has created a valuable guide to overcoming cross cultural challenges and building a successful life in the UK – please visit the course’s information page for more details!

Working across cultures – difficult or different or both?

How often do you hear similar sentiments expressed by expat managers and team leaders working across cultures:

  • There is zero initiative among my staff. 
  • No one knows how to follow up and deliver on time – I spend half of my week every week requesting things that have been long overdue!
  • All meetings that I have ever attended have been interrupted by at least one cell phone call – and the recipient always took it!
  • Even though I have a separate office (and close the door!), I find myself constantly interrupted by people dropping in to ask me (or tell me) something.
  • A meeting that should last an hour often goes for 3 hours.  It’s so difficult to get people to stay on topic and come to the point.

These examples of frustrations I hear from clients all point to how difficult – and different – it can be to create something together when working with people from diverse cultures.  The words difficult and different represent two different (no pun intended) perspectives of looking at this challenge.

If we look at it from the point of view of “how difficult” it is and nothing else, frustration, hopelessness, and an overwhelming desire to go home drive all of our actions and responses.

If we look at it as “difficult and different” we open up for the possibility of creating out of the difficult by looking at and considering the differences.  How can we create out of what’s different here?

Creating out of the differences requires not only this open-minded perspective but also a good knowledge of where the differences lie — it requires Culture Mastery:

  • What cultural preferences do you and your colleagues differ on?
  • How big/small is the gap?
  • How possible is it for you to adjust your cultural preferences – that is, will it infringe on your values/identity or will it simply be about changing your habits?
  • What cultural alliances can you create to be more effective?

What has been your experience in creating from the different and the difficult?

NEW at the Global Coach Center: Culture Mastery Course (online) that specifically addresses challenges described in the post above.

Copyright © 2011 by Global Coach Center.  If you’d like to reprint this, please do so but make sure you credit us (with a live link)!

A to Z of Successful Expatriation™: U is for UNDERSTANDING

Understanding and being understood is the base for creating connections. It applies both in situations within your own culture and when you find yourself living and working in a different culture(s).  The latter can often be a trickier undertaking.

Let’s start with being understood.  NLP teaches us that “I don’t know what I said until I know what you heard.”  What it means is that we all listen through different channels and pay attention to different things within what’s being said.  Some may listen with attention directed at people in a story, others with attention to events, yet others with attention to surroundings, so on and so forth.  Ever played a game of telephone when you were a child?  Do you remember how a story changes completely when passed from ear to ear?  That’s because we recount what we hear and we all hear different things.  This fact becomes even more acute in different cultures.  So, when you are communicating across cultures make sure your message is understood the way you intended it to be – and not the way you assumed it to be.  Failure to do so may result in many misunderstandings and sometimes even in ruined relationships.

Now what about our skill of understanding?  Provided we know the language and its nuances (a big if), how do we make sure we understand what’s being said – and what’s being unsaid?  Here I’d like to focus especially on what’s been unsaid.

Almost every time a person speaks – if you listen closely – you can hear the dream(s) that person holds for him/herself.  The dream(s) that express their hopes, wishes, and aspirations – the dreams that give meaning to their lives.  Sometimes they themselves cannot hear those dreams, but your job is to be able to hear them.  Because if you do, you connect with them on a much deeper level, you learn what’s important to them, and that makes you capable of knowing how you can structure your relationship to help them achieve their dreams.

What are your thoughts on understanding and being understood?  And do you have any other U’s to contribute?

For all the letters in the A to Z of Successful Expatriation™ click here.

Check out our Expat Club: 10 Weeks of Wisdom Program. It has been specifically designed around expatriate issues and concerns and it’ll help you feel supported, encouraged, and inspired. If you ever thought of getting an expat coach and didn’t get the chance/finances/courage to do it, this Club is your opportunity to try a virtual coaching environment.  Register for it here.

Copyright © 2010 by Global Coach Center.  If you’d like to reprint this, please do so but make sure you credit us (with a live link)!

Lack of the familiar — an opportunity to create?

Recently, during a celebration at an Israeli consulate in Miami, I heard an interesting quote by Golda Meir, one of the most known Israeli prime ministers.  “Moses dragged us for 40 years through the desert to bring us to the one place in the Middle East where there was no oil,” she said once.  The speaker used the quote to continue his thought on how the Israelis had to be very creative to sustain their young country and how now they have one of the most advanced IT and medical industries in the world.  No oil?  No problem.  Let’s see what we can create out of the “lack of oil”.

This speech reminded me of my childhood.  When I grew up very few things were readily available and so whenever we needed something, we resorted to creating it ourselves.  Take that creativity and multiply it by the thousands and thousands of people and you get lots of inventions!

These two examples got me thinking about the experience of expatriation.  As expats we are constantly “giving up” things that are familiar and things that — in the past — have given us resources to sustain ourselves.  As we move, each and every time, we lose access to what got is where we were.  And even though it’s not easy, we pick up the pieces and move on to create something out of the lack of what we just left behind.  So with every expat move, we prove the resilience and the creativity of the human spirit.  We also prove that lacking something is the best way to create something new.

What do you think?  And what have you created in your life out of “lack”?

People who read this post also enjoyed:

Culture Shock Revisited or Is It Really All About Going Through the Stages

3 Reasons to Become an Expatriate

7 Habits of a Happy Expat

Copyright © 2010 by Global Coach Center.
If you’d like to reprint this, please do so but make sure you credit us (and include a live link)!