Our previous article looked at the HR headaches that arise from not knowing what you don’t know: traumatic transitions, recruiting failures, and retention wrecks. This time, we look at leadership disasters, communication collapse, and stakeholder missteps.
Without Inter-Cultural Intelligence, leaders do not consider changing the way they lead and interact with others when they move to new environments and the people in the same environment when they are plugged into a new situation. GMAC produces research on this, and on average, especially at senior level, up to 40% of senior executives either terminate contract or don't renew after their first term is over, because the environment and the people in that environment were too challenging to deal with.
With greater Inter-Cultural Intelligence, executives are able to realize what they don’t know in a new context and then fill in the gaps to gain clarity on the situation. Only when they have begun to understand their new context will they be able to lead effective strategic and tactical operations in their organization.
Our International Director, Marco Blankenburgh, remembers a presenter who was brought in to a market he had never presented in – but who would not allow his slides to be checked by someone familiar with the local context. They didn't review the stories he planned on telling or go over a dress code: so he came into his presentation wearing jewellery that was inappropriate, cracked the wrong jokes, presented slides that were inappropriate to the local context, and interacted with his clients in ways that would have been totally appropriate in the presenter’s culture, but were disrespectful in the new context. When the presentation did not go over well, his conclusion was, “These people don't get it and they're not ready for my message!"
In KnowledgeWorkx terms that response is a classical “cultural critic” way of dealing with failure. A cultural learner would say, "Hey, maybe I have triggered the wrong response with my audience: maybe I need to go back to the drawing board." Through that process they would learn how to communicate effectively in complex inter-cultural situations, but the cultural critic never learns.
Another huge challenge is how organizations operating in a globalized world can manage stakeholders from so many different backgrounds. If you work in an NGO for instance, or in a corporate or government situation, you will face this problem. But it is not just individuals: governments now interface with other sectors across the globe. In one recent situation, the government of an expanding economy in the Gulf was concerned about getting rid of the shame that could potentially arise from a condemning article written by a Western investigative journalist. They went to press to counter the accusations, but did not include any counter-evidence in the response.
This had the opposite effect from what they intended, because in a Western context; which is primarily an Innocence/Guilt context, presenting rebuttals without evidence gives the impression that you have something to hide, so it actually works against you. The government’s default method for eradicating shame did not work for stakeholders that came from a non-honor/shame background.
Similarly, governments that come from an Innocence/Guilt worldview often release statements which completely address the issue from their point of view, but do nothing to address the honor/shame issues of their stakeholders.
You can very often point to one of The Three Colors of Worldview when you see the way a country deals with accusations in the press because, unfortunately, there is very often little Inter-Cultural Intelligence in the messages design.