Friday, 24 February 2012

With a Global Clientele, Learn to Master Cultural Norms

As a leader, how do you respond when working with people from a culture that is unfamiliar?

If you find you're working with people from a culture with which you are unfamiliar, as a leader, you have to modify your behavior to fit cultural norms. This can be tough, especially if it makes you feel inauthentic. If you face this discomfort, try these four things:
  • Identify the challenge. Pinpoint what's making you uneasy. For example, in a culture that values a top-down leadership style, are you struggling to provide clear directives?  If so, how might you manage that?
  • Adjust your behavior. Make small but meaningful adjustments that both reflect the culture you're working with while staying true to your values. You don't have to mimic behaviours, but could you adjust your own behaviours to be more reflective of those with whom you work?
  • Learn.  As the leader, you need to learn what the cultural norms are.  Do what you need to do to understand what the cultural norms are.  Understanding the differences helps to build bridges.
  • Recognize the value. While you may need to behave in counterintuitive ways, focus on the desired outcomes of your interactions.

Adapted from "Three Skills Every 21st-Century Manager Needs" by Andrew L. Molinsky, Thomas H. Davenport, Bala Iyer, and Cathy Davidson.


  1. This ties into the leading edge from our director this week. York region is characterized by its cultural diversity . I am glad that ISCS is supporting inclusivity and equity system wide.

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