Each New Year’s Eve I particularly enjoy watching the live broadcasts of celebrations as the clock strikes midnight in each time zone around the world. Even though not all countries or cultures celebrate New Year’s on the same day or in the same way, seeing these celebrations is a reminder to me of how much we do have in common across cultures. We look forward to a new year with hope for health and happiness. We enjoy the camaraderie of our friends and family. We also like a good celebration. So often in global leadership we focus on difference, but it is our shared humanity that helps us build bridges across cultures. For those of us who are knee deep right now in 2013 strategy discussions and action planning, this is the time to reflect on how we can connect in even more genuine ways with our colleagues in the coming year.
In our research and discussions with international executive coaches, we have found that simple actions often have the greatest impact:
- Communicate in person. Whether you visit your colleague in his nation while you are there on business or simply pick up the phone to speak to him, personal interaction is a much more powerful way of communicating than sending an impersonal email.
- Show interest. Build time into your interactions to learn more about what your colleague does in her role and what interests she has outside of work. It is vitally important that you too are open to sharing this information. By doing so, you will identify shared experiences and common interests that provide momentum for relationship building.
- Actively seek input. Actively involving geographically dispersed colleagues in business conversations and decisions is not just key to relationship building; it is also good for business. Actively seeking the input and advice of diverse colleagues enriches the understanding of all team members and leads to more informed and culturally appropriate decisions.