Osnat Lautman, Management Consultant
Understanding the power that cross-cultural communication wields on business operations is one of the most important components of international business success.
Today’s corporate leaders work in an environment suffused with new technologies that make national boundaries less important, and the Internet enables us to communicate in spite of time differences and geographical distances. Modern business is evolving in a world of complex technologies that sometimes require specialized foreign colleagues and employees, and therefore leads to multicultural interactions on a regular basis.
As an organizational consultant working with companies all over the globe, I have observed that successful CEOs who manage heterogeneous groups understand that behind the cultural gaps are individuals with the same wishes and goals as their own.They also know it is important to use their own cultural intelligence to treat people from different cultures appropriately, in order to build trust relationships with foreign employees and colleagues.
Cultural intelligence (CQ) is the ability to adapt to other people around the world. It is a combination of four parameters: Drive, Knowledge, Strategy and Action.
Business people who understand the importance of cross-cultural communication have the drive to learn about the behavior, norms and beliefs of any culture they do business with. Knowledge about the other person’s culture as well as your own gives you the groundwork for strategic thinking. And when the time comes to take action, you know what to say, how to say it, and to whom.
Today, cultural intelligence is no longer optional in the global business arena. It is imperative for effective behavior in various situations. Many companies, however, still fail to realize the full potential of a diverse workforce. Managers need to create an environment of involvement, respect and interpersonal relationships. They must build teamwork that enjoys the wealth of different backgrounds, perspectives and ideas. Working with empathy for one another enables mixed groups to generate greater business value. In other words, organizations require both diversity and inclusion to be successful.
Inclusion makes it possible to bring these varied forces and resources together in a valuable way. It promotes better business results by integrating and engaging people from disparate backgrounds and perspectives. It creates opportunities for new knowledge, ideas and possibilities of success.
Wide-ranging research indicates that diversity alone is harmful for individuals and organizations. Without inclusion, individuals feel like they are not themselves and need to behave somewhat differently in order to fit into the organization. The fact that some employees need to “fake it” in order to “fit in” highlights differences without taking advantage of what global teams can offer. Focusing only on differences lowers workers’ spirits and sense of wellbeing, and decreases both performance and profits. It disrupts decision making and increases clashes. Using cultural intelligence in the business arena helps global C-level managers understand the benefit of working with diversity and inclusion in order to achieve higher performance and greater business success.
It is important to remember that at the end of the day, for all the progress in technology, business success depends on the behavior, decisions and choices of individuals. Global business people with a passion for diversity, a spirit for adventure and the self-confidence to tackle inclusion, take the extra step to learn about other cultures with an open mind and empathy; and they will be the leaders of tomorrow. They are the ones whose behavior, decisions and choices for building effective and profitable international organizations pave the way for succeeding in the contemporary global market.
About the Author
Osnat Lautman is a management consultant on cross-cultural communication in the international business world. She is the founding director of OLM-Consulting and author of the book “Israeli Business Culture.” Lautman has extensive experience as a consultant, lecturer, and facilitator all over the world, and in advising CEOs and employees in multinational organizationson how to improve their global mindset and the way they present themselves to diverse audiences.