Based on some work I have been doing as an Executive Coach at Harvard Business Schools, I have had the opportunity to meet and interact with business leaders from all over the world. One of the significant observations of this international diversity has been a better understanding of culture. Culture can be defined very simply “how things work around here” and no matter what way you cut it, there are always going to be differences.
When one considers the fundamentals of human nature, the realities of how humans are supposed to communicate becomes apparent. First and foremost there has to be a relationship that is somehow grounded in familiarity. Interestingly when one assesses culture, under whatever categories might be appropriate, you find that people have typically more in common than differences. Once you understand this and people become familiar with each other, it actually becomes quite easy to build on the similarities and respect the differences.
However cultural differences are not just about people from different parts of the world; it can also exist within organizations and often between the various hierarchical levels. How does the culture that is espoused by senior leadership compare to what actually exists on the ground. In this instance, “micro” cultures are created where various leaders can shape the behaviors, the respect (or lack of), the biases, etc so that sometimes it feels like you are walking into “another world”. Anybody who has worked with different organizations can attest to this.
So as we think about global culture, be mindful of how both personal and organizational cultures can actually shape behaviors. And to ensure that it functions in a positive way for all involved, ensure familiarity to build positive relationships, which in turn will generate respect.