Dr. Nikola Perovic is an international management consultant and coach, who specialized in cross-cultural relations challenges, and international marketing. He is the author of the book “The International Post-Acquisition Management” which includes 16 case studies on international management changes and integration in selected companies in various industries. He was a university professor of international business and marketing at the Higher Colleges of Technology in Dubai from 2015 to 2021. Previously he was a lecturer at various universities in South Eastern Europe. He held international seminars/conference speeches on cross-cultural management, marketing management, international acquisitions, international trade, export management, and management in tourism. He has been an international consultant for the International Trade Center (Geneva), the export promotion agency of the United Nations, and the World Trade Organization.
Post-Covid times put pressure to change leadership at all levels: teams, departments, companies, communities, government, and international organizations. These days we understand that leadership has to be inclusive, innovative and focused on change management. Even the ways how we communicate have been changed in the manner that it has to be more open, caring, and long-term driven. Can we achieve all these improvements in leadership and communication if we don’t expand our understanding of cross-cultural relations? Certainly not, as we have to utilize every human potential regardless of culture or any other diversity.
Many cross-cultural trainings are focused on what is acceptable, and what is not in a specific cultural setting. They are dominated by a focus on differences, and a better understanding of foreign cultures, and quite often they create a perception that foreign cultures are unattractive and filled only with constraints. Contemporary cultural training should be focused on adaptability and convergence, meaning that we should find ways how to connect more, not how to divide. As a final impact of the cross-cultural training, participants (students or employees) should become culturally resilient, and consequently unleash global potential regardless of cultural boundaries should be triggered.
Global communication skills are important for all who want to engage in any intercultural scenario, which basically is most of humanity. Cities such as London, or Dubai with more than 200 nationalities living and working together, can only thrive if we all learn how to learn from different cultures. This process can be natural quite often, but universities and the corporative sector have to know how to organize cross-cultural training to extract maximum talent potential coming from cultural diversity. We need a skilled approach to this “extraction” and the following are the steps that can improve cross-cultural learning:
- Understand fundamentals of cultures-our own, and others. Cross-cultural coding can be implemented here. A. Molinsky (Global Dexterity Method) proposes 6 codes: levels of directness, enthusiasm, formality, personal disclosure, assertiveness, and self-promotion. These codes vary among different cultures, but also among our own personal comfort zones.
- The second step is to examine your personal acceptance of these codes and to identify the gaps. We need to find out the level of ‘stretchiness” possible to get closer to the desired level of these codes. How far can one be more or less direct, engage in self-promotion, etc? Be honest with yourself, as sustainable results are possible only if adaptability comes naturally. Find the level which is agreeable to your own personal values. Examine the ways how to deal with them by focusing on mutual goals within your teams, and by finding the common ground. Try to understand the cultural logic behind specific behavior. More often than not you might justify and better understand different approaches once you grasp this logic. Cultures are mainly protective of nature, and that is common for all of them. Once you get familiar with such an experience, you will become more respectful of various diversities, more open-minded, and will be able to focus on the positive sides of cooperation.
- Look inside oneself to understand the psychological challenges that cultural adaptation brings to you. These can be authenticity challenges, likability, resentment, or even competence challenge when communicating in a foreign culture. It is important that you don’t underestimate these emotions, as the whole training will be only partially successful in the short term. You can manage these challenges by using different dialog, timing, body language, or customized context (Global Dexterity Method). These will increase your comfort in the process of adaptation.
- Practice cross-cultural communication with verbal and non-verbal signs, understand the differences and appreciate diversity. Use cross-cultural role plays, games, and simulations as tools. This can be a fun and bonding experience in team training.
- Focus on win-win negotiation. Different values in different cultures are of higher or lower importance for members of different groups. Therefore, it is possible to have won for all in such situations. Understand core values in both cultures and create solutions that are aligned with these values. It is possible, as long as we engage in transformative negotiation which leads to impactful motivation, and long-term cooperation. Remove the simple transactional approach, and it will work. Transformational negotiation is aligned with transformational leadership, which is preoccupied with organizational improvement and sustainable development.
Importance of certified trainers
Truly understanding different cultures comes from living and working in different cultures. It is critical to have cross-cultural trainers that possess certification in cross-cultural management with extensive personal experience in international communication, business, and relations. Ask your trainers to always provide personal examples since those will make every training as interactive as possible since most of us love personal stories. These can very often be fun and entertaining, which would even more positively influence learners’ satisfaction. Culture is always evolving, so there is no final end to cross-cultural education, and that’s why this training has to be engaging and stimulating.