Cross-Cultural Competency: Influencing and Leading Without Borders

Today we are more connected than ever before and geographical boundaries no longer need to be a constraint for employers. It’s no surprise that the Institute for the Future (IFTF) lists Cross-Cultural Competency as one of the top 10 skills in its Future Work Skills report.

While many large organisations have been working on a multicultural level for decades, developments in technology have now opened up the potential for global collaboration to organisations of all sizes.

You no longer have to be a global manager at a large multinational to work with people from across the globe on a daily basis. Now all you need is an Internet connection and an account with ODesk.

In spite of its growing importance, cross-cultural competence is something that, according to leadership consultant Ed Franzone, is lacking in many organisations, especially when it comes to leadership.

Developing the skills to bring people together from a variety of backgrounds and countries is important now, and it’s going to become even more crucial in the future as organisations develop global teams as a way to save costs and access top global talent. Franzone makes the important point that a global mindset is no longer just for expats and people who travel and work face to face with different cultures.

Many of the people who can benefit most from developing their cross cultural competency are those who work remotely from home offices, negotiate with global suppliers and participate in global teams.

Franzone goes on to identify nine critical factors that are important to being a successful cross-cultural communicator. These are:

  1. Global business savvy: understanding your global industry
  2. Cosmopolitan outlook: learning more about the places where you do business including relevant historical, geographic, political and economic issues.
  3. Cognitive complexity: the ability to deal with complex cross-cultural issues.
  4. Passion for diversity: embracing and being passionate about the differences and diversity of different cultures.
  5. Quest for adventure: approaching cross-cultural collaboration with a sense of adventure.
  6. Self-assurance: having the confidence to embrace challenging, unpredictable new environments.
  7. Intercultural empathy: the ability to make an emotional connection with people from around the world.
  8. Interpersonal impact: being able to establish credibility, develop a personal network and build consensus.
  9. Diplomacy: understanding the values and motivations of others by asking questions, actively listening and observing.

This might sound like quite a formidable skill set but Franzone goes on to suggest a three step process that involves educating yourself on cultural differences, finding a coach who can help you strengthen your global mindset and immersing yourself in multi-cultural experiences.

Whether you’re an organisation looking to strengthen the skills of your leadership team for global success or you’re an employee or freelancer who wants to collaborate more effectively, learning Cross-Cultural Competency is a crucial skill that will set you up for success in the future.

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