Working Globally - Your Effectiveness
February 11, 2010 - Dr. David C. Miles
Consulting, Coaching and Counseling are three terms we use domestically and are perceived as interchangeable. This is not a universal truth in the global market. From my experience only the term Consulting is universally accepted as a positive term. This is important to check with the client as the other two terms carry various potential negative connotations. So, while we may believe we are engaging in a positive perception, the wrong term (Coaching and Counseling) may be deemed as remedial and threatening. This is one of many cultural sensitivities that you must be aware of when working in a global environment.
A key to being successful is to first learn about the macro culture of the country in which you or your participant is working in or is their heritage. While this can be a little time consuming, it will pay big dividends in your overall effectiveness. As we all know our efforts are measured on two key aspects: 1.) What we actually do or teach or clarify, and 2.) How we communicate and the style of our communications. It is this second area that becomes the most difficult since we do not “come from” the culture of their environment. A great example of this for me was when I was working with an executive in Central America, and when we were going to lunch we went to his personal family home. This is normal in their country due to the safety factors of certain executives being out in public. It was a most gracious experience.
Effective listening before engaging is a positive pre-step to ensure success. Asking the hiring organization about cultural sensitivities and fully appreciating the impact of these will go a long way to your subjective understanding on how to position your message and advice. Many times unfortunately, the Home Office may not understand these areas either and that is why you are brought in to consult. The best results are usually obtained when you can visit with and implement on the participants’ home turf. This is when you can observe and “feel” the cultural issues that impact your success. In all cases do not be afraid to ask for their thoughts on these sensitive but vital areas. You will be a better resource the more you listen and learn. Your subjective credibility will expand and you will be better able to bring sustainable positive change.
Dr. David Miles is managing partner of OI Partners - Miles LeHane Companies (Leesburg, VA, District of Columbia and Maryland), a career management consulting firm specializing in HR consulting, executive coaching, career transition, and training and development. Previously, David had a broad 25-year career within the Saga/Marriott corporations. David received his Ed.D. degree in education and human development from The George Washington University in 2002. He can be contacted at 800-327-3370 or firstname.lastname@example.org.