Two Global Trends worth noting
The world has become more inter-connected, but that inter-connectedness has also led to a global growth of nationalism. This growth of nationalism is likely a reaction to the complexity and complications inherent in corporate, cultural, and workforce globalization which everyone must increasingly face, even at home.
There are many forces contributing to this rise of nationalist ideology, but the outcome has generated at least two strong worldwide trends: Authoritarian Populism, and Protectionism.
Authoritarian Populism is a move to the political right, led by political parties that push an agenda putting original or historically earlier citizens first, and promoting tighter controls on the influx of foreign elements.
This tendency is a global issue that is not just affecting Europe. It is happening across Africa, Middle East, Asia, Latin America and North America.
The tendency to put ‘our people’, ‘our products’, ‘our education’, and ‘our financial security’ first is growing across the globe. Several governments have won elections by focusing on a loss of national identity; for example, the government of Narendra Modi with the BJP, which came into power in May 2014 in India.
This does not just affect national policy and how anything that is foreign is dealt with internally. It also affects cross-border, regional and internal trade in significant ways. In most regions of the world you see a decline in cross-border trade that shows a diminishing lack of trust for products, services and talent that comes from other countries and regions. Some economists warn that diminishing cross-border trade is bad for the overall health of the global economy.
As a result of the rise of Authoritarian Populism, we have seen a sharp rise in the enactment of protectionistic legislation, especially in the last few years. When you analyze the nature of these new laws it is clear they serve one purpose: “Protect our own”.
At face-value this seems a natural and logical thing to do, but in our global and interculturally connected world we do not have the luxury to think of ourselves as isolated nations anymore. The host of major issues we face in our world today actually make it essential for nations to work together at levels beyond what we have seen in the past!
Gordon Brown gave a serious warning in his talk at the WEF gathering in Abu Dhabi in 2011 when he said: “If we don’t learn to collaborate, I am afraid we will face a disorderly retreat into a new kind of protectionism that will damage our ability to build on the success of globalization over recent years”. (See the video "The Great Transformation - Shaping New Models", from 48 minutes onward.)
Unfortunately his warning was not taken seriously and we have indeed entered into a new era of protectionism. This has especially been fueled by the new government in the United States and their significant change in foreign policy and international relations. This has already had a ripple effect on other governments who were leaning more toward protectionism, and have been emboldened to pass similar laws.
The result of this has been the growth of challenges in our ability to operate both locally and globally at the same time.
Despite the nationalism-oriented trends we’ve just discussed, there remain strong trends toward, and a mounting need for, the globalization of talent acquisition (as discussed in the previous article in this series). The two types of trends – those toward increasing inter-connectedness, and those in reaction to it – don’t cancel each other out. The danger is that, together, both trends will lead to increased friction that further exacerbates the chances and costs of failure.
As Einstein once said, the challenges of today’s world cannot be solved with the same thinking we used when we created them. We have to elevate our thinking in order to overcome these challenges. In this environment, developing Inter-Cultural Intelligence is more relevant than ever before.
Learning from failure
Most companies do not like to talk about failures, especially when it comes to failures after entering new markets or after mergers and acquisition. But even if a company is bold enough to talk about their failures, the big question to ask is: “Do they know how to analyze those failures from an intercultural perspective?”
One of the most important competencies we address in our Intercultural Leadership coaching and learning is “Perception Management”. How does a leader perceive the intercultural world around them? How do they perceive their own role within that context? How do they analyze what worked, what didn’t work and why? The ability to analyze a situation from an intercultural complexity point of view is either a foreign concept or only superficially addressed in most leadership development.
After leaders are exposed to an intercultural analysis framework, many times after failures, they often say things like: “How in the world could I have made decisions before without this framework?” Being well-informed and empowered to making interculturally relevant decisions is well worth the effort needed to get there.
Four crucial areas for leaders to develop
We want to highlight four key development areas that make a huge difference in your personal and organizational ability to navigate today’s global and complex world. If left unheeded or misunderstood, these four areas trigger unnecessary failures: loss of talent, valuable relationships, resources and opportunities.
Unfortunately, while the consequences of an Inter-Cultural Intelligence shortfall are significant, in many cases they are not identified as such or they are labeled as unimportant.
1. Culturally Agile Leadership
We are in the midst of change all the time. One of the things in flux is the mix of cultures we are in and must relate with. Successful leaders must assume things are always changing and constantly re-evaluate to stay ahead of the curve.
When things get complex, leaders tend to focus on either transactional or relational excellence; seldom on both. In reality, the more complex a situation becomes, the more the leader needs to find a way to help the team to pursue both transactional and relational excellence. Pursuing both at 100% is difficult.
Truly great intercultural leaders are committed to being an intercultural learner and growing the ability to create and nurture a third cultural space for their teams. However, many leaders in today’s world are not equipped with the competencies and skills necessary. Some have been fortunate enough to learn through the ‘school of hard knocks’; but skills learned in this way can be difficult to transfer to others. Investing in intentional learning will ensure that transferable intercultural skills and competencies are developed.
2. Culturally Agile Change Management
It is not often that we discuss change management from a ‘culture shock’ point of view. But there are valuable lessons to learn from comparing the way we handle culture shock to the way we manage change.
We experience culture shock as a result of three triggers:
- My behavior fails to accomplish what I expected
- The behavior of others is unexpected and unexplainable
- The environment puts demands on me that I am not willing or prepared to meet
Accounting for these elements is crucial in managing change in intercultural environments. The more Cultural Agility you infuse into the way you manage change, the more easily you can adapt when these triggers hit you and your personnel. Inter-Cultural Intelligence gives you the tools to manage change effectively. For more detail on the three triggers behind culture shock, see our article on this important topic: Understanding Culture Shock: the Three Triggers that Drive Culture Shock.
3. Culturally Agile Relationship Management
Most of us default to guesswork in understanding another person’s culture. Our frequent tendency, wrongly, is to use national or ethnicity-based stereotypes. We make assumptions about a person’s cultural behavior and preferences based on the ethnic group he or she appears to be from.
To leverage better cultural awareness, we need to change our stakeholder management approach from a Functional to a Person-to-Person approach. Successful Inter-Cultural stakeholder management is only possible if managers work to understand how stakeholders are wired from behavioral and cultural perspectives.
Relationship management in an intercultural world requires a dynamic, personal and tailored approach. While this adds a level of complexity that many leaders may find challenging, if developed it can be one of the most powerful competencies in the quiver of a Culturally Agile Leader.
For a deeper look, see our article on Managing Inter-Cultural Stakeholders.
4. Culturally Agile Trust Building
Trust is at the root of the positive global trends, while lack of trust is at the root of negative trends. If societies have a high level of trust information starts flowing automatically. Ideas are exchanged, knowledge is shared, cash moves from lenders to borrowers, and so on.
It can be shown that trust boosts GDP. Trust between two neighboring countries is directly correlated to the amount of cross-border trade between those countries.
Trust is talked about in many places, but most of the time people talk about trust as if everybody in the room is working on the same paradigm of behaviors for building or destroying it! This is the crux of the intercultural dilemma when it comes to trust. Understanding how to build trust requires a different conversation, bringing in intercultural lenses to frame the discussion. We like to talk about trust from an intercultural behavior-based perspective, called ‘merit-based trust’.
You need to discover and define what behaviors enable trust and what behaviors inhibit trust in your environment. Facilitating this conversation has to be done by somebody who has intercultural experience to navigate. The more intercultural the environment is, the more challenging that becomes. The ability to have a trust conversation that is Inter-Culturally Intelligent is one of the frontier competencies of the Culturally Agile leader.
Quickly becoming the global preferred choice for Inter-Cultural Intelligence development, KnowledgeWorkx promotes mutual understanding of other cultures and perspectives in the workplace, and helps teams to develop the intercultural capacity necessary to thrive in a globalized world.