Successful cross-cultural meetings
September 1, 2016
Learning to interact effectively across cultures is a key skill for any expat. Successful intercultural communication at workplace, especially during meetings, is essential as the tiniest misunderstanding can have unexpected consequences. Crown Relocations knows how challenging these intercultural gatherings can be for expatriates from Kenya and therefore we have selected the best advices for handling cross-cultural meetings successfully.
1. Do cultural research
Even if you work in a multinational organisation, it is likely that some of your new colleagues are not conscious about the impact culture has on their daily interactions. Before a meeting, try to gather as much information as you can from the cultures that will be represented. Observe the others in their daily interactions, watch videos, talk with other expats. Taking into account these differences will minimize your risk of committing a faux-pas.
2. Be open-minded
A culture cannot be fully understood unless you are a member of it. Consequently, leave room for the unexpected. Before any meeting, remind yourself that different values can make us behave differently. And remember: be positive!
3. Establish relationships
A good way to minimize cultural tensions during a meeting is by establishing relationships with its attendees well in advance. During informal and casual conversations, people feel at ease and they place less importance to cultural confusions. Try joining your colleagues at work lunches or after-work events or share a coffee together in a morning break. For you, it is an excellent way to get exposed to their culture and for them, to get to know you. After this, if an awkward moment appears during a meeting, they will not take it as seriously!
4. Master the local professional etiquette
Having a good knowledge about the local culture is important, however in order to participate successfully in a meeting sometimes you need more. You should excel in the local professional etiquette.
Every culture has different perceptions of authority and hierarchy as well as different principles regarding what is correct and what is not. For example, while in a European meeting it is totally unacceptable to answer the phone, in China it is completely common to find people with one or two smartphones in their hands during the meetings.
There are plenty of resources online that can help you master the workplace customs, such as this Forbes article. Remember that first impressions matter. You have two minutes to gain or lose your credibility. Failing on being aware about this nuances might be the key to your success during your international assignment.