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The Inter-Cultural Manager: Fostering Collaboration

Updated: May 18, 2023

The Inter-Cultural Manager, Part 4 of 4

Collaboration requires me to move past stereotypes of others and learn to understand, respect, trust and celebrate people who are different than me.

In the last 20 years we had the privilege of working with leaders and manager in over 70 countries. The complexities of our world require managers to take their ‘game to a higher level’. The same ‘game’ that caused the challenges we face today, is not sufficient to be a successful manager in our world today.

Our world is both on the move (virtually and physically) and highly interconnected! If there is one thing we need to do a whole lot better it is the following:

navigating the intercultural challenges of our teams

This is our final article illumining the four management behaviors of the Everything DiSC® Management Profile, using the intercultural spotlight of The Three Colors of Worldview©.

Today we are exploring the final behavior of Collaboration, looking at two ways managers can foster collaboration on a multicultural team: by helping team members grow in respecting each other’s strengths, and by creating a culture that protects ownership of ideas.

Beyond Stereotypes

Respect is a key ingredient for collaboration. Respect requires me to move past the areas I perceive I am better than you or different than you, and learn to see and appreciate your strengths as well.

That will often require me to let go of stereotypes based on differences like culture, gender, or personality etc. This can be challenging when you work on a diverse team. People come into a team with ideas about what a good manager looks like, or what it means to be a good team contributor, and it may not look like you!

Different cultures look at management and leadership in different ways. If I am a manager, depending on the cultural background and experience of the people on my team, they may expect me to be:

  • The charismatic, dynamic, leading from the front type

  • The quiet, powerful, rock-solid leader who quietly droves the process in the right direction

  • An aggressive go-getter who cracks the whip on his people to make sure they get the job done

But what if my natural style of leading is something different?

The Best DiSC Style for Managers

Talking with managers about their Everything DiSC® Management profiles, we often get asked, “What do you think about my profile? Is it a good one?” Many people assume that certain DiSC behavioral styles must be better than others for a leader. Many cultures assume that certain DiSC styles will make better managers. Most of these stereotypes have grown over a long period of time and in most cases they are steeped in cultural history, tales and songs of heroes. Depending on the culture you are from, these tales will celebrate a certain type of leader, but forget that all societies are run on a wide variety of leadership requirements!

This is why I love the Everything DiSC® Profile and the way the Everything DiSC® Management profile brings to life the power and importance of multiple management styles in a given context - it all depends on how one uses them.

Breaking stereotypes like this in an organization is actually one of the keys to unlocking collaboration. People need to recognize there is not just one good way of doing things.

One of the beauties of the Everything DiSC® Management profile is that it brings the benefits of different management styles to life, helping people appreciate, respect, embrace and celebrate both their own styles and those of colleagues different from them.

Working Well with Others

Reaching out to collaborate requires me to exercise leadership, and I can only lead from my strength. It is crucial to learn to embrace your own natural management style first, accept it, embrace it and make it the center of gravity for your growth as a manager!

If you try to conform to a stereotype in the way I manager, you will likely violate the core wiring of who you were mean to be as a manager and as a cultural human being. The first step of becoming a good manager is experience the freedom to lead from your natural strength!

But you also have to be careful in demanding others to conform to a stereotype in the way they respond, and hampering them in a similar way. Ignoring people’s natural wiring is one of the biggest things working against collaboration.

To give a cultural example, if I lead with a more Innocence-Guilt oriented mindset, my natural default as a manager will likely revolve around deductive reasoning, cause and effect thinking, critical analysis, and asking and engaging on good questions. If this is my wiring, the way I collaborate with my peers will reflect that.

But that can also cause problems for others. I might pose a question to someone with the genuine desire to solve an issue or get to the bottom of something, but I might actually offend them. For example, if I pose too probing a question in public, my Power-Fear oriented colleague could feel threatened.

To collaborate well, I need to learn the cultural wiring of others as well as myself. Instead of asking the full question in a public meeting, I might ask, “Can we talk about this later? I would like to hear more.”

Coming from the other side, if I lead with an Honor-Shame mindset and am trying to discuss something with an Innocence-Guilt oriented colleague, they might get frustrated with me because they expect me to have an opinion and answer a difficult question on the spot.

I may need to communicate that this decision requires more time, because it affects stakeholders in my community and not just my opinion. I may need to let them know they have chosen too public a forum for the sensitivity of this conversation, and we need a different context before I can give a final answer.

This kind of constructive communication comes from learning to appreciate myself and others as cultural beings, a key foundation for working with others.

It is also crucial for managers to take initiative and start conversations on their teams to create understanding and common culture (The Third Cultural Space) in terms of collaboration. Below are a few suggested starter questions to get a team dialog going:

  • How do we best set up a session in which we try to come up with new ideas?

  • What is the best process to follow if I want to get your input on something?

  • How do I apply the Three Colors Litmus test if I disagree with you?

  • What does it take for our team to create mechanisms that allow all relevant voices to be heard?

  • How to we make sure credit and acknowledgement is given so that the Three Colors Litmus test is true?

Attribution and “Positive Gossip”

Another important issue when it comes to collaborating is how people view ownership and attribution of ideas. I need to know: If I share something significant, will it continue to be referenced as my idea? Will I be given credit as it gets passed along?

On an intercultural team there may be different perspectives as to what is allowable or desirable.

The Three Colors litmus test is a powerful tool for evaluating questions like this about team behavior. For each behavior it involves asking “Is this honorable for all? Is it empowering for all? Does it do right by all?”

If we can answer “yes” to each question, it gives us confidence that this behavior will be interculturally positive for the team, because we have considered each of the foundational drivers of culture.

In the case of attribution, if I am going to share my ideas freely, I need to know that others will honor the fact that a particular ideas is “mine” when they pass it on. I will only be empowered to share freely within the team if I can trust my teammates to do this.

An environment where this is lacking is much more likely to form silos in the organization, where information-sharing becomes selective, deteriorates rapidly and begins to impede the business. When information sharing becomes selective it has a negative impact on collaboration, innovation, and creativity! Create a culture where contributors are acknowledged and ideas are shared referencing the originator, develops high levels of trust and creates ‘idea-flow’ that leads to more ‘cash-flow’ (sorry for the pun…).

A culture of attribution grows even faster if it is done in third person style. In other words: those situations where you speak ‘positive gossip’ about a great idea, solution or contribution somebody has made without that person being in the room! It lifts the level of trust remarkably fast and creates a desire in others to do likewise and even a desire to “want to be the next person that gets talked about in a positive light when they are not in the room!”

When the four focus areas of the Everything DiSC Management profile come together with Culturally Agile application of these principles; magic happens!

Knowing how to make the following four management behaviors come alive in a culturally diverse setting is crucial to developing a healthy management culture and in turn allow your managers to develop High Performing Intercultural Teams!

Growing Collaboration

You cannot create a synergistic environment automatically, but when managers and team members begin to intentionally work better together, areas with the potential for synergy become more apparent.

As people learn to be respectful of each other’s behavioral styles and cultural wiring, it not only improves the quantity and quality of communication, but also speeds up the process of discovering and committing to solutions. Over time we can create a totally different management environment.


This Series: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4


KnowledgeWorkx offers coaching and mentoring, team development journeys, and tailorable workshops to help you get there. Contact us to see what the combined spotlights of behavioral styles and cultural drivers can do for your team.



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