Whether we work in Düsseldorf or Dubai, New York or New Delhi, we’re all part of a global network. People from different cultures think, lead, and communicate in wildly different ways. To get things done, it’s essential that we learn to navigate that cultural minefield.This is true both face-to-face and virtually, when we connect by e-mail, videoconference, Skype, or phone.
When we try to understand and predict others’ behavior, we tend to focus on just one or two dimensions of cultural difference. As a result, we paint with a broad brush—too broad. Even seasoned global managers fall into this trap of oversimplifying differences.
For example, you might think that the Japanese always make top-down decisions, and the French are always indirect when communicating. So it comes as a shock when your French colleague bluntly criticizes your work or your Japanese clients want buy-in from every employee, from the CEO to the cafeteria staff, before making a decision.
So how can we develop a more nuanced understanding of the global work environment?
By measuring management behaviors on the eight dimensions where cultural gaps are most common. When we compare countries on each scale—Communicating, Evaluating, Persuading, Leading, Deciding, Trusting, Disagreeing, and Scheduling—we discover how culture is likely to influence day-to-day collaboration with colleagues, customers, or partners from different regions.