10 Questions to Consider When Negotiating Across Cultures

davelivermore | May 12th, 2015 No Comments

Imagine you’re negotiating a contract with a bank where your brother is a senior executive. To what degree should both of you be directly involved in the negotiation? This was the dilemma recently faced by a U.S. executive working in Mexico. His U.S. company was negotiating a deal with a Mexican bank where his brother was a vice president. The Mexican bank believed it was essential that both brothers be directly involved in the negotiation because their ties and reputation were an asset to the deal. But the U.S. company said, “Absolutely not. That’s a conflict of interest!”

Regardless of the cultural context, the objective in negotiation is to reach an agreement that mutually satisfies both parties’ interests. Accomplishing that across cultures requires a high level of cultural intelligence. Jeswald Salacuse, author of The Global Negotiator, suggests ten questions to consider when negotiating across cultures. These questions, together with the four CQ capabilities, provide you with an effective strategy for negotiating across cultures.

1. Negotiating Goal: Contract or Relationship?
For some cultures, partnering implies building a relationship, whereas for others it’s primarily a contractual transaction. Determine the goal as soon as possible. If you’re trying to partner with relationally driven negotiators and you over-emphasize your ability to deliver a low-cost contract, it can cost you the deal. For those who primarily want a contract, trying hard to build a relationship may be viewed as pandering and wasting their time.

2. Negotiating Attitude: Win-Lose or Win-Win?
Many negotiation books presume everyone is after a win-win; however, some cultures and organizations are driven by an approach that assumes one side wins and the other side loses. Win-win negotiators see deal making as a collaborative, problem-solving process, whereas win-lose negotiators view it as confrontational.

3. Personal Style: Informal or Formal?
Some cultures, such as Koreans, prefer a formal style of negotiation that emphasizes titles and avoids discussions about personal matters. North Americans usually begin more informally by starting negotiation discussions with some small talk and referring to people by their first names. It’s safer to begin with a more formal approach and move toward a more informal one when it becomes evident that the culture and situation allow for it. 

4. Communication: Direct or Indirect?
In cultures that rely on indirect communication, such as many of the Confucian Asian cultures, an initial meeting will rarely disclose a definite commitment or rejection. Indirect negotiators are wise to recognize that their direct counterparts may not accurately understand what’s occurring if it isn’t explicitly stated. When CQ is low, direct communicators interpret indirect communicators as being passive aggressive and indirect communicators perceive direct negotiators as being aggressive and pushy.

5. Sensitivity to Time: High or Low?
In many Asian and Latino cultures, it’s impossible to reach an agreement without extended time to get to know each other. This may include going out for dinner or drinks, visiting national landmarks, playing golf, or going to a cricket game. In contrast, many Western European and North American cultures value expediency in reaching a deal. For these individuals, vast amounts of time socializing can seem like a disregard for the value of one’s time. Adjust your expectations and remember that it almost always takes longer to negotiate across borders. 

6. Emotionalism: High or Low?
To what degree should you express the emotions you feel related to reaching a deal? Affective cultures such as Latin Europe are more likely to show their emotions at the negotiating table, whereas neutral cultures such as the Dutch and Japanese are unlikely to disclose their feelings toward the deal. Start more neutral and follow your counterpart’s lead.

7. Form of Agreement: General or Specific?
North Americans typically prefer detailed contracts that cover any type of situation that may arise. However, many other cultures, such as the Chinese, prefer contrasts that represent general assumptions and guidelines, believing that the agreement is based primarily upon the relationship between the two parties, not an abstract document.

8. Building an Agreement: Bottom Up or Top Down?
The norm among French negotiators is to begin with agreement on general principles, whereas North Americans begin with agreement on specific deliverables and develop the principles based on those. As with all of these, an organization’s culture and the individual personalities involved also play a significant role in whether a bottom up or top down approach works.

9. Decision: One Leader or Group Consensus?
Any effective negotiation requires learning who ultimately makes the decisions. But this isn’t always easy to determine. Many collectivist cultures have large groups show up for a negotiation meeting and many others not at the table may also be involved in reaching consensus. And many individualist cultures expect that one or two key individuals will ultimately be the ones who make the decision. Don’t assume you know who the decision maker is. Use your CQ Knowledge and Strategy to figure it out. 

10. Risk Taking: High or Low?
Finally, determine where the other party falls on the uncertainty avoidance dimension. Those from high uncertainty avoidance cultures such as Israel and Japan will often want much more information and detailed processes to help alleviate ambiguity. In contrast, those from low uncertainty avoidance cultures may be frustrated with an over-emphasis on too many details.

As always, beware of an overreliance on broad cultural norms. They’re a good first guess, but they can derail your entire negotiation process when applied too broadly or mindlessly.

Once you have a negotiation plan in mind, hold it loosely and be ready to adapt. Anticipate ahead of time where you will and won’t adjust. And the more you become adept at using these kinds of questions and reading the cues, you’ll find they make you a better negotiator within your own culture as well.

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Excerpted from the new edition of Leading with Cultural Intelligence, now available in bookstores everywhere.

 

Cultural Intelligence and the Afro-centric Worldview

davelivermore | April 14th, 2015 9 Comments

 

 

Guest Post by Buhle Dlamini

Africa has some of the fastest growing economies in the world right now. Forget the news headline like “Ebola in West Africa”, and “Violent Militants in Africa”. The reality is that these challenges pale in comparison to the amazing opportunities this vast continent has to offer.

Corporations looking for growth in emerging markets are opening offices in multiple sites across the continent. This is where cultural intelligence comes in, and in particular some understanding of the Afro-centric worldview is essential in order to succeed.

Being a native of South Africa and a Zulu raised in rural Zululand, I have an inside scoop on the different ways that Africans see the world. While not every African holds this Afro-centric worldview, most will identify with it. And we take this view for granted until we’re exposed to something different. In my cross-cultural marriage to my wife Stacey, a Canadian from Nova Scotia, I started to note the ways we held different worldviews.

Take for example the differing views when it comes to how time, family and ownership are perceived from an Afro-centric perspective.

Time
The majority of people with an Afro-centric worldview see time very differently from Westerners. Africans operate from the “Event-time” orientation, meaning the emphasis is put on the event and the person rather than an artificially imposed time. Time is negotiable. This is why events in an Afro-centric setting tend to be much longer than in other cultures.  It is considered disrespectful to allow time to get in the way of interacting with each other. If you run into a friend or family member on the way to work, surely you will take the time to greet them and ask about their family.

  • When working in an Afro-centric context allow more time for the unexpected rather than simply scheduling everything into a rigid timeframe. In a “clock-time” oriented culture the watch dictates when things start and end, whereas in an Afro-centric setting, people dictate the length of an event.

Family
In some cultures, family is narrowly restricted to focus on the nuclear family and a limited extended family. The Afro-centric definition of family is far more reaching and even extends to anyone who shares a similar surname. This can be confusing, especially because people may refer to extended family members as uncles and aunts when there actually is no direct connection in the way that other cultures would understand those terms.

  • ‘Ubuntu’ is a collective and shared identity, or togetherness, which links everyone’s humanity to the connectivity they maintain with other humans. As a result weddings, funerals and other important events tend to be a much bigger affair and open to a much bigger group. Turning down an invitation to a co-worker’s family event may be a much greater offense to an African than it would to co-workers from many other cultures.

Ownership
Ownership in an Afro-centric worldview is very collective. When I first bought a car and drove it back to my village, everyone responded, “We have a car! We have a car!” In the majority of Afro-centric contexts there is a community ownership of everyone’s resources. This often translates into ‘what is yours is ours’.

There is an unspoken expectation that when you succeed in one-way or another you have to carry the rest with you. If one owns a car and others don’t, one is expected to use it for the benefit of the rest.

  • Failure to comply with these expectations quickly earns one the reputation that they are selfish and ‘un-African’. Consider how HR policies may need to be adapted when expanding into Africa. Understand the expectations an employees’ community will have on them.

These tend to be extremes of the Afro-centric worldview and many younger leaders are beginning to adopt more Western values. But before assuming a young leader lacks confidence because he won’t look you in the eye or a staff member is irresponsible because she shows up late for a meeting, stop to consider what competing values they may be facing. Don’t too quickly judge their motives and find ways to discover more.  Most of us Africans are quite welcoming and eager to share our culture but when rebuffed in our attempts we may hold back. The key is to be open-minded and use cultural intelligence to be surprised by the rich things you can learn.

Africa awaits! Wozani Nonke—Come All.

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Buhle Dlamini is based in Canada and South Africa and is available to offer speaking, training, and consulting to help organizations develop a culturally intelligent approach for working in Africa. He’s a CQ Certified Facilitator and is founder and chair of Young & Able, a consultancy offering CQ training in Africa.

Four Myths of Global Leadership

davelivermore | March 17th, 2015 No Comments

 

Culture matters. It’s more than just a “nice-to-have.” It’s a key factor in what makes or breaks today’s global leader. As a result, organizations in every sector are clamoring to find effective global leaders. Those who can lead with cultural intelligence are in demand. Yet much of what gets talked about in the global leadership space is informed by myths and anecdotes rather than empirical evidence. Even many top-rated MBA programs assure prospective students and employers that their curriculum will develop global leadership, yet there’s little done to measure and develop global capabilities in their students. And many organizations rely most on technical expertise when looking at whom to put in charge of a new, global project. I regularly encounter the following myths when reading, listening, and talking with others about global leadership:

Myth #1: Leadership Is a Sixth Sense
Conventional wisdom among many business executives is that leadership is a sixth sense: You either get it or you don’t. You have to lead from the gut. And frankly, there’s some research that backs up the surprising strength of seasoned executives using their gut more than data or detailed analysis to make good decisions. That’s because the “gut” has been subconsciously programmed through years of experience. The problem is, the subconscious programming is specific to a culture and may not be a reliable source when making split judgments and decisions in an unfamiliar culture. This explains why some individuals have been incredibly successful leading in one context only to fail miserably when attempting to lead in another. The “sixth sense” of leadership has to be retrained and developed when the cultural context changes.

Myth #2: The World Is Flat
I have enormous appreciation for Thomas Friedman’s compelling argument that the economic playing field has been leveled globally.[1] A Filipino start-up firm can go head-to-head with a behemoth multinational company and leaders in all contexts are wise to wake up to this reality. But I often hear people applying Friedman’s "flat world" idea more broadly than it was intended. I’m regularly asked, “Isn’t there a global professional culture emerging where people are more alike today than different?”

When you observe people in airport lounges in Dubai, Sydney, and London, it certainly seems like we’re all more alike than different. And if you predominantly experience different cultures by visiting hotels and offices that are built for guests like you, it’s easy to miss the differences that exist. But when you get beneath the surface, you find we’re remarkably different. Leaders have their head in the sand if they think they can lead people the same way everywhere. Culture doesn’t explain everything. But it is one of the driving factors in how to effectively negotiate, build trust, foster innovation, and motivate people toward a shared objective.

Myth #3: If No One Follows, You Aren’t Leading
Surely a “leader” with no followers might not be leading. Or he or she might be attempting to lead in the wrong context. Leadership is not only about the values and style of the leader. As evidenced by the findings in the GLOBE leadership study, not all followers want the same thing from their leaders. The cultural values and preferences of the followers strongly influence who can effectively lead them. Some followers want larger-than-life, charismatic leaders like Bill Clinton. Others want modest, understated, practical leaders like Angela Merkel. This is explained by an idea known as implicit leadership theory, which says that whether you lead effectively is not only based on your leadership skills; it’s also a reflection of your followers’ expectations of leaders. Because culture is one of the variables that shapes what people expect and want from a leader, a culturally intelligent leader is wise to understand this before accepting a new leadership role or assigning someone else to one.

Myth #4: Matrix Models Are Better Suited for Leading Across Borders
Many companies have moved away from headquarter-centric models of leadership to matrix models. Reporting lines go in multiple directions, teams are co-located, and decision-making is more collaborative than top-down. Most of the world, however, prefers a more hierarchical style of leadership in which authority lines are clear and followers are given clear, specific directions. There’s great potential in matrix models for international growth and expansion. But a matrix model requires an additional level of cultural intelligence in order to effectively use it.

I’ve interacted with leaders at Google about this. Google has an extremely strong corporate culture and recruiters are given a clear standard of how to spot the Google DNA when searching for new Googlers. But the questions and techniques recruiters typically use to get a sense of a job candidate’s interests, personal accomplishments, and innovative ideas need to be significantly adapted based on the cultural background of the candidate. And the ability to find the right candidates who fit with the more matrixed structure of Google requires culturally intelligent recruiters.

Global leadership itself is not a myth. It is possible to lead effectively across multiple cultures. This is the very thing we’ve been studying in our research on cultural intelligence for the last couple of decades. We have growing evidence that a leader’s cultural intelligence predicts several important leadership outcomes. Effectively leading across various cultures is a capability that can be measured and improved. But it begins with a more thoughtful, situational understanding of leadership.

…This is an excerpt from the revised edition of Leading with Cultural Intelligence, releasing this week in stores everywhere. Read more about the book and download a sample chapter here.



[1] Thomas Friedman, The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2005).