Intercultural Communication in Changing and Challenging Environment
Communication is a transfer of ideas, opinions, attitudes, information from the source to the beneficiary. It’s done on different levels and by different ways – by looking, talking, listening, reading, but also with simply being silent. Managers think that they know everything about communication, but the truth is that they know very little and also, very often, they are not prepared to learn.
Communication is both powerful and powerless; it depends who is using it. Although, we don’t use communication to achieve some result, it’s in a way efficient. People think that we communicate only with words, but with non-verbal communication we transfer more than 55% of the message, so other side can figure it in a different way. Message is not the one we told (the picture in our head), but the one our collocutor understood (the picture in her/his head).
Managers also think that silence is not a way of communicating, but that is not true – silence also transmits its own message and can tell a thousand words. How the others will understand our message and how many things will we achieve, depends on the way we express our opinions and attitudes. Individuals that communicate better have more success in resolving conflicts, negotiating, have satisfactory relations with others, they have more confidence, and consequently they are generally more successful and satisfied.
It is up to managers to take responsibility for the messages they send and for possible error that can occur and make the message unclear. Developing their communication skills can help them to take a realistic look at the causes of errors in communication (some may always want to be right, dominate or on the other hand, avoid conflicts, so they backdown, and that bothers them).
1.1 Two way street
Communication is a two-way street. Say what you think in transparent way – express your needs, attitudes and don’t expect the others to read your thoughts. Sometimes tolerate the silence since silence is also a way of communicating. Trying to be empathic during communication – listening to coworkers’ opinions and attitudes even if they are different, showing emotions and trying to understand (accepting difference between people as an opportunity to learn more) but don’t let emotional occupation influences messages they send is the best way to communicate the message across and to get best possible feedback.
It takes effort to get along with everybody at work. Social skills we developed while growing up can help us as adults in the workplace, but not always workplace situations can be explained and conducted as childhood experiences.
Series of conflicts that occur commonly on the job can be solved with following behaviour:
- Truth builds trust. Always tell the truth and keep your promises.
- Good communication is base for good cooperation. You will get powerful advantage if you know how to communicate to find creative, win-win solutions by listening and sharing.Competence wins respect. Put in the effort and opportunities will follow.
- Don't take criticism personally. Accept criticism – and give it – personally.
- Honor different work methods. Different people have different ways to get the job done.
- Support your coworkers. Provide help when needed and thank those that help you.
Coworkers can settle personal clashes amongst themselves before their differences get a chance to escalate. Small bits of humor make your comments easy to understand and the message is universal – play fair and others will (mostly) respond in kind. An atmosphere of tension can add stress to any job, over and above the actual work itself.
1.2 Truth and trust
Managers are responsible both for company’s results and for people they manage. As a manager, the productivity of your workforce is a primary responsibility but you should be aware that a major source of productivity is employee satisfaction. “People-first” approach can increase loyalty, retention and productivity so your other goal – productivity – can be also achieved. Highly motivated people, that trust you, achieve exceptional results. The most important question you should ask yourself is: “How can I help my people to trust me and my opinions and judgements?”
The best managers clear the obstacles and provide support needed to gt the job done. They trust their people and their people are ready to tell them the truth about business situation, their ideas or their innovations. If you define “key drivers” that can be isolated and measured you will always get more of what you recognize. See what’s right with people rather than what’s wrong. If you give your people reason(s) to trust you than they will be ready to tell you the truth about business they do.
1.3 Communication and cooperation
Communication skills are critical in every social and business environment. We also know that communication often breaks down. When there's breakdown we ususally think the solution is to speak more clearly. But often, the solution is better listening.
What causes breakdowns in listening? Each of us has a habitual way of listening – a way of fitting what we hear into our preconceived notions. We are captives of our way of listening, often unaware that we hear is not what others are saying.
Listening should not be taken for granted, so important is that:
- clear speaking does not guarantee clear listening,
- listening is always interpretative,
- culture and personal history shape listening
- perceptions about relative power can limit the exchange of ideas,
- changes in mood changes in listening, and
- effective communication requires listening beyond the words.
Team work is necessary to individuals so they could reach their goals that can not be reached only by themselves. Every group needs to have somebody to control it so managerial part of the team work is consisted of assembling the team, leading the members of team and continuously communicating. Different behaviors of team members gives different levels of cooperation, therefore different final results. Results are depending on external environment, but most often they depend on internal level of cooperation.
Beside knowledge and skills you gained during time (and you show in daily business situations) effective performance adds value to your competences and can motivate your coworkers to do even better. Unfortunatelly, performance apprisals are often regarded as mere formalities. Reviews are sometimes skipped or done late. Clear guidance falls by the wayside and halfhearted wotk goes unchallenged.
To upgrade your competences you need to define critical elements to cover your appraisal process and to give you advantage of sticking to daily business’ as weel as to projects’ schedule. Fairness and consistency are also important to define your competences. How to deal with under-performers and how you motivate top produces is also a signal how strong your competences are and what is the value of your coworkers feedback.
Your competences can motivate your coworkers to achieve better results. There is a direct correlation between recognition on the one hand and productivity and retention on the other. Therefore, one of the important parts of your comptences as manager is how you perform your responsibility in providing consistent recognition.
Proise must be honest and authentic, recognition should be specific and timely and rewards are best when tailored to the individual. Managers must look for positive behaviour and praise often.
We often hear the term «constructive criticism». Unfortunately, much criticism ends up being destructive. Why people usualy do not know how to give and take criticism in ways that benefit the individuals involved as well as their organisation(s)?
The art of giving criticism follows a simple guideline: attack the problem, not the person. Selftest on «why I am giving this criticism» is crucial. If you are angry and your purpose is to punich or get even, then stop. Since timing for criticism is very important, ti is good to catch problems before they grow. Nevertheless, if the individual is under pressure waiting for critisim can be better solution.
Taking criticism can be tough. Being on the receiving end of criticism can be rough experience. Taking criticism professionally, without defensiveness and without feeling humiliated is the fastes way to find solution that can satisfied both sides. All criticism, even malicious or unjustified criticism, contains information – sometimes the one that can make you smarter.
We all need criticism. Ti is a part of daily learning. What we don't need is the anger, defensiveness, frustration an conflict that are so often associated with criticism. If you can establish a spirit of cooperation and growth, based on sharing criticism in afair way, you will be able to create a more effective organization.
We are all different. We have different work methods, different communication styles and different personal values. Communication is sometimes smooth, sometimes is not-so-smooth, so interactions within a diverse set of coworkers is not final, «works-in-all-situations» model. Cross-cultural communication is a skill. No one is perfect, but with practice and respect to our coworkers all of us can become better at it.
To establish strong connections with coworkers and customers you have to ask yourself (at least) four questions:
- Do I acknowledge and respect differences?
- Am I communicating openly and clearly?
- Is it possible that my words or actions are being misinterpretated?
- Are my assumptions creating barriers?
Ask open-ended questions and improve communication with your coworkers, respect their contribution to business results and generate compromises that are acceptable to everyone. Most important, do not jump to conclusions about another person’s motives or attitudes.
Creating positive atmosphere in your workplace helps your organization tothrive. Interpersonal skills are at a premium since first civilizations as well as these days. Working well with others is critical to your own success. Good teams build involvement, improve communication and cooperation, and generate innovative business solutions. They streamline decision making and expand competencies. But, if not handled well, they have a tendency instead to go astray, waste time and generate frustration.
To be able to guide your team well or to support members of the team you are member of you will need specific guidelines for effective team communication. It helps you set clearly defined goals and focus on solutions that keep your team on track.
What you need to know and apply? You need to identify appropriate team projects, select the right team participants, nurture them through development stages and help build team identity. Support your coworkers and they will (most probably) support you.
Adopt your communication to each situation, which means you must not communicate by habit or by learned text, because not all the situations are the same and niether is the communication. In specific circumstances (and each situation is different) you will have to have prepared answers in your head and the answers to all the possible questions or structure things you want to say.
Communication is a part of characteristics of each individual or groups of people, so in team work relations it’s very important to communicate with your coworkers successfully for better results.
1.1 MANAGING PEOPLE
Reading the book, you will find basic knowledge of communication interconnected with environment, which we all need, with knowledge and skills expected from people who manage other people in business organizations, therefore, we call these people managers. As the majority of you who do not have the title 'manager' could sigh now and say that this book is for those who already know everything, and are, therefore, managers, allow me one moment of your attention.
While we are at the beginning of the book it is the perfect time for the following question. Are you a manager? Can you relate your job to managing people? Do you think that you are not a manager if your job title does not have a word manager in it? When you manage yourself, of course you are! The word "micromanager" is the one that will help us explain how each one of us starts from the first step – from managing yourself. In your own "micro world" you are your own manager and you manage a group that has one member – you.
No one has many different tapes in their heads to change them depending on a day and location. No one has the tape 'job' to put in their heads when they go to work, neither the tapes 'home' or 'friend' exist to be exchanged according to our change of behavior depending on who we are with. We are all persons of flesh and blood with same habits at home and at work, so, if you know how to manage yourself, with knowledge about the work you do and some good communication skills you will know how to manage other people. The same principle works if you do not know how to manage yourself, the fact that your office door holds the sign "executive director" does not guarantee you quality communication with your employees.
The crisis on the market of managing ideas is a natural result of the fact that people have not invented a single emotion for thousands of years. People love, hate, respect, despise, support and attack each other since the beginning of civilization, the time of ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. People are ready to follow a charismatic leader, stone to death or burn (literally and metaphorically – when it comes to the media) everyone whose idea threatens the existing system and order, denounce to the authority their neighbors if a cow trespasses, cheat the partner if it means more money in their pockets and make the slave/serf/servant/employee work in bad conditions if it makes profit that fulfills expectations from the owners or shareholders. Everything remained the same and the new ideas on management are mostly recycled experiences from our forefathers.
A great number of management literature today we can throw in one of the following two waste baskets: in one you can find written wisdom from management thinkers without practical experience in incomprehensible style, who escaped white mice and tested their ideas (thanks to politicians) directly on people, while in the other you can find shallow, timeworn clichés and unimportant phrases created for managers without brain, who are delighted with catchphrases and lame theories that are consistent with present trends. There is a small number of works that respect the fact that people have been gathering together and forming groups, that one group has always been managing the other, that it is not space engineering wisdom and the basis for every successful teamwork is structured from the following:
- right choice of team members;
- getting their individual capacities into a mutual strength;
- good intercommunication skills;
- a person (or more) that manages the group and uses the three prior conditions to achieve the goals of the group, as well as, of the individuals.
In the moment when all illusions vanish due to the selfishness of their business leaders, people realize the truth that management as a discipline has to become comprehensible and applicable on a daily basis in order to make it really important. It is in human nature that individuals and groups behave rationally only when they use up all other options. In this book we will try to find why and how people work together and what the managing role represents.
Many people reject being managed and they have every right to do it. In its essence the best way to manage these people is not to manage them at all, it is better to support them in succeeding at work. To make it sound simpler, they are like mechanics under the car, and the manager hands them tools. Involved in a friendly conversation they share knowledge to finish the job successfully. The best results are achieved by people who know enough and care enough so that they can manage themselves, but are, at the same time, aware that they can not do everything by themselves, and they form groups with other similar individuals.
There are also people who do not like to think and want others to make their decisions. They are happy working for a famous company or being a part of crowd that achieves some results. Under the car, they do not look at what and how they work, but expect the manager to hand them tools, and, without even checking the car, to give them orders what to do next. These people achieve results thanks to the movement created by someone else.
A single universal solution for a good organization and a successful team work does not exist. Organization is the means to achieve goals, not the goal itself, and the size, structure and behavior of the organization depend on what should be achieved, because many people together can achieve something an individual can not achieve alone. One person makes the difference, but you need a group to make things happen.
A well managed organization can achieve most of individual and group goals in the organization. A badly managed organization will lead to a lack of success, disappointment and fury to all who expected or wanted to create something. The result of organization activities is the sum of individual's realizations in the organization. It is a very simple concept but is often forgotten when the organization starts operating.
1.2 COMMUNICATING TOWARDS ACHIEVING GOALS
Defining and executing your goals is one of the most powerful things you can affect your life with. There is a great difference in life whether you have or do not have goals. If you live without goals, someone else will impose their goals onto you and move you to achieve them. Acceptance of such a role is legally allright. However, the majority of people feel bad in the end when they realize that other people's goals fill their own lives.
If and when you choose your goals (or at least most of them), you create your own path of life and decide how to reach the goals. You drew them yourself, so motivation to achieve them could not be on a higher level. Every time you fulfill a meaningful task you feel great, don't you? You are filled with positive energy. Defining goals moves you forward and adds a great feeling of personal value to your existence.
When you define your goals be sure you know what you are doing. Each time think carefully if you want to determine the goal. It does not mean that you have to think constantly if the goals could be achieved, if it is hard or not. What we want from you is to be completely sure that you want to reach this goal.
After defining the goal your next step is its achievement. It sounds simple, but the experience tells us differently. Keep it always in mind: the secret in achieving the goal is in the simple fact never to give up. If you keep running during the marathon, and do not give up at its first or forty-first kilometer, you will come to the finish line. If you give up, even a few meters before the finish line, like you never participated in it.
The common characteristic of successful people is that they never give up. There is no point in defining goals and not achieving them. Happiness and contentment come with both defining and achieving goals. When you feel discouraged, remember that it is up to you whether you continue or not. If you decide to continue you will not fail.
You should also relax if you do not achieve the goal in the planned period of time. You are successful for as long you follow the path towards the goal. From time to time you have to harmonize goals and deadlines with situation you are in as well as with new goals. The conditions we live in change daily and what seemed important six months ago is probably no longer important today.
Changes are unavoidable and the worst mistake you can make is trying to prevent them. When they happen activate your brilliancy and innovativeness of group members instead of waiting for someone else to use the changes and impose their own ideas onto you. Changes in defining and achieving goals is the skill you have to train in order to manage other people.