On Wednesday 3rd February Nomura International hosted both CWN members and members of their own Women’s network for an interactive session moderated by Allyson Stewart-Allen, an internationally
recognised marketing and executive education expert.
The aim of the workshop was to explore working across cultures by discussing both the theory and real-life examples. Allyson was joined by panelists representing three of CWN’s corporate members:
Kristin Wolfe – SABMiller
Maurice Benisty – GE Capital
Aya Kawamoto – Nomura
The Theory: 3 Models for working across cultures
Allyson took the audience through 3 models which can be used to improve performance in working across cultures: Thunderbird, Richard Lewis, and TMA. These models provided the audience with an insight into how people from different cultures may perceive risk, make decisions, approach hierarchy, and how best to navigate direct or indirect approaches for success.
For example Allyson talked through how in certain cultures a business topic can be approached and discussed from multiple angles rather than in a linear way. Some cultures will prefer to focus on the theory as opposed to the facts, and some cultures will focus on the foreground information rather than wanting to understand the background in depth.
Allyson warned of falling into the trap of expecting our own way to be the “right” way. Rather we should be prepared to “drive on their side of the road”, adapting our style to their culture in order to create lasting global relationships and impact.
Each panel member shared amusing anecdotes on when cultures can clash, local sayings can backfire, and conference calls can create mayhem when different members of a global team come together.
The panel also discussed how performing research beforehand will unfortunately only get you so far, and time needs to be spent investing in the relationships to understand others’ perspective, and adapting your style to theirs in order to build trust. Once you have built trust, you will able to move forward in your professional relationship more effectively.
The audience’s experience
After a period of discussion on the individual tables, several members of the audience made their own observations and asked for advice navigating different cultures and also the sub-cultures including gender, religion, race. There was strong agreement that individual personalities also needed to be taken into consideration.
Allyson shared her experience that the key is to guage the atmosphere in the room, be aware of people’s backgrounds and frame of reference, and wherever possible to research the cultural background.
Putting theory into practice – advice from the panel
The session closed with the panel members giving their own advice for effectively working across cultures. The main themes were to keep in mind the other person’s frame of reference throughout all communications, and most importantly take the time to invest in relationships.
The panel were in agreement about how much organisations benefit from a diverse and inclusive working environment, and how important it is for success to achieve a balance across all cultures. Once again, ‘tone from the top’ was seen as vital.