What is Cultural Awareness (And Why It Matters)
In an age where business is global, the ability to effectively lead, sell, create and connect across borders is a skill without rival.
Today’s top leaders can run a client meeting in London with the same finesse as they can in Suva, Buenos Aires or Shanghai. They understand what time to arrive, what to bring, where to sit and whether or not to fill the silence depending on the culture they?re operating in.
This is what we call cultural awareness.
It is understanding how your cultural values and beliefs affect your actions, and the actions of others.
Cultural awareness is a tricky skill to learn, especially if you’ve never thought about it before. Not everyone can take on a three-month sabbatical in Seoul or interact with someone from every culture imaginable just to expand their cultural horizons.
You might be asking ? why does it matter? What impact does this have on my bottom line, my sales targets, or my career path?
Cultural awareness affects performance
As multicultural teams and working relationships become common, researchers are seeking to understand how cultural awareness affects our outcomes at work.
It’s become clear – if you want to succeed in a multicultural team, organisation or market, build your cultural awareness.
Cultural values influence business practice (and can create culture clash)
When you think about the places you’ve worked, how many of them liked to utilise the ?chain of command?? You know the one.
The one where you complete a piece of work, and it’s reviewed by your boss, then their bosses and so on until it is given the final tick of approval by a higher-up you probably haven’t met. You wouldn’t (and in most cases, couldn’t) go to them for advice or feedback.
Work and decisions move up, not across. Attire is probably more formal and authority is earned in titles. Your job title matters ? it denotes who you can come to with ideas and where you sit in the board room.
This is a perfect example of a hierarchical culture.
Compare this to a company where the Regional Manager has lunch with the Junior Accountant, and they riff on ideas about the upcoming end of year reports while talking about their plans for the holidays.
Announcements in this office are given verbally instead of in formal memos from management. Dress is pretty casual and decisions are made by all kinds of people from across the organisation.
This is what we would call an egalitarian culture, one where people are given (almost) equal authority and power.
Now, imagine a company like this being bought out by the first company I described. Can you picture the frustration over how decisions are made, and the struggles over authority?
This is why understanding how to communicate and manage conflict with people from different cultures is so important.
Cultural awareness is a key leadership skill
Culturally competent leaders are in-demand leaders.
When you develop your cultural awareness, you build a global mindset that allows you to understand and identify talent in all its forms (not just in the standard ?package? you would normally look for).
It allows you to understand different markets, and find new opportunities within them.
Most of all, it allows you to build and maintain effective relationships with all types of people ? all with different ways of looking at the world and distinct ideas.
Developing these skills isn’t always easy, but it is important.
If you or your team are interested in building your cultural awareness, please get in contact with us about our upcoming workshop in September 2019: https://www.peopleconnexion.com/cultural-awareness
We are also able to hold customised in-house workshops for your organisation. This is a great solution for teams with a mix of expatriates and local staff, or sales / leadership teams that commonly interact with clients from other cultures.
If you?re interested or would like more information, please get in touch with us directly via www.peopleconnexion.com/contact-us