Mindful leadership in a multicultural environment – Part I

Leadership|Jenny Ebermann|Services|Everybody knows that our world seems to spin faster every day; distances become ‘smaller’ and suddenly a student in Norway can interact directly with peers in New Zealand through Social and other Digital Media. Space and time are not important anymore. Information and images can be transferred instantly. You want to know what a hotel is like in one part of the world: no problem, you will find all you need on the internet where many people already left their feedback on what you are looking for. The same applies for goods, products and other services which can rapidly be ordered, delivered, exchanged from one country to another. For the humans living in this world, remote spots on the planet suddenly moved directly into their living rooms through TV, PC or other supports. Nothing seems to have a secret anymore. Even travel has become affordable, meaning that everybody nowadays can visit any location for a correct price and in nearly no time.

The same principle applies to today’s workforce: nobody is bound to employment in their country of origin; applications and CVs can be posted everywhere on the net and connections made to recruiters worldwide. As a direct consequence, people from very different nationalities and backgrounds find themselves coexisting in one and the same office or workplace, not only in multinationals but also in SMEs and elsewhere. In the sports world for example, successful teams around the globe host players from various countries. Only one criteria counts: to be the best in the relevant discipline, no matter where the candidate comes from.

But: what at first glance seems to be exciting and simple, can become rather difficult in the day-to-day practice. Even though continents, languages and people have become ‘closer’ to one another, every single human being has its own culture, behaviour, pace and habits. As a result, business relationships have to take the cultural background of the different partners into account in order to ensure a fruitful collaboration. In short, nowadays a successful and mindful leader has to have much more competencies than social and technical skills. Intercultural competences are equally important and represent a huge challenge in multinational teams. Results are often affected and even hindered by irritation, embarrassment, resentment and conflicts within a team, problems emanating directly from cultural misunderstandings. How can such “disturbances” be overcome in order to establish a  friendly and effective work environment? How can international business be smoothly
conducted, even though people from different cultures are involved?

Leaders and HR often call upon specialised coaches to help them navigate the uncertain waters of intercultural management. How intercultural coaching and coaching in an intercultural management environment can be differentiated and how teams can be trained and coached to efficiently work together will be discussed in the next articles. Stay tuned!

Let me know what you think!