Why Cross-Cultural Competence – by Deborah Levine

Matrix Model Management System
Cross Cultural Wisdom Guide

We are constantly shuttling between local and global in our work today. Your markets may be in your home town one month, and across the country the next. Your consulting work can be on site around the corner, or across the country. Online night and day, we inform, coordinate, network, and market here at home and across the world. In the midst of massive information overload, the diverse team must have the expertise to cross cultures competently and the wisdom to make effective decisions quickly. In the future, the overload will only intensify. How will we master the global – local connection as it moves and morphs at lightening speed?

We need a system, a mental structure, capable of continuous learning while remaining rooted in our core beliefs. Sound daunting? With years of field testing, the Matrix Model Management System integrated the principles of Cultural Anthropology, Diversity & Inclusion, Intercultural Coaching, Conflict Management, Cross-cultural Communication and Leadership Development. The beauty of the System is its accessible, light-hearted learning process, and its personality-driven application.

Begin with Your Story

• Craft Your Story with Cultural Competence
Elevator speeches, bios, press releases, and blurbs are cross-cultural opportunities. Yes, they’re basic marketing tools, but they have a greater depth of meaning in the local-global connection. The words you choose can reassure or alarm concerning both your trustworthiness and your competence navigating cultural differences. At the very least, your words should not offend or become a joke. How can we do that effectively and, when necessary, spontaneously?

The ability to tell our story begins from the starting moment of a training session. There are no ice breakers, just as in real life there are few warm-ups, and very little of our interaction is as peripheral as a game. In the Matrix System, there is no periphery because every interaction is a cultural artifact. Every word of your story, every tone of voice, and every non-verbal cue has the power to re-define you and to change how you’re received. The impact can take only seconds to register and it takes practice to meet the “immediate impact challenge”. Being cross-cultural in our communication requires continual learning about what has immediate impact with diverse groups locally and diverse cultures globally. To achieve this, the Matrix System deploys one of its most popular topics: Cultural Shorthand. Anthropology teaches us that cultural expressions such as the Arts, Sports, Architecture, and Food carry a depth of meaning beyond the obvious. They are cultural shorthand for cultural norms, beliefs, values, and styles.

Practice your cultural shorthand for a few weeks. Go see a movie that takes place in a foreign country where you’d like to do business. Make a list of items that caught your eye and three reasons why. Listen to songs from that country even if you do not speak the language. Make a list of the sounds that appealed to you and three reasons why. Eat several ethnic dishes from that country, especial some that you’ve never tasted before. Make a list of the tastes that appealed to you and three reasons why.

You’ve just had a crash course in using cultural shorthand for creating cross-culture expertise. You can apply the process globally and locally. Watch your favorite local news program on TV and make a list of what appeals to you over other news programs and three reasons why. Practice daily to build cultural competence to meet the “immediate impact challenge”.

• Internalize a Conflict-Comfort Barometer
Awareness of cultural differences isn’t enough to avoid Culture Clashes. Cultural Expertise requires an internalized sense of how those differences can impact you and, therefore, your business. When an interaction goes surprisingly poorly, don’t panic. Welcome the sensation of culture clash, of discomfort. Keep a journal and record the incident.

Add to your journal daily for the three weeks it takes to establish a new habit. Name the interaction and describe how you felt. Quantify your emotional reaction by giving it a number. Practice your new metrics by assigning a number to interactions throughout the day. The information will accumulate, translate into insight, and become a tool for measuring culture clash potential. If you have a team, ask each member to do the exercise. You’ll end up with a common language that streamlines conflict management.

Deploy Your Wisdom

Now that you’ve boosted your competence, it’s time to step up to Expertise and apply your skills to the diverse workplace. Expertise implies leadership abilities that inspire trust, not only in your competence, but in your wisdom. Yet, most of us hesitate to claim “Wisdom”, despite aspiring to it. That disconnect disappears if we refer to our decisions, not ourselves. While the “Wisdom-R-Us Matrix” sounds light-hearted, it brings wise decision-making into focus. Make a list of wise decisions you’ve made and three ways that each of them show wisdom. The process will grow on you and become more natural with time. Then you’re ready for the next level of Cross-cultural Expertise: Global Application


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