Shut up and Listen: One key to doing business in another culture (Smart business is culturally savvy)

A recent article focused on the passion of Melinda Gates in her involvement with Pivotal Ventures, an investment and incubation company focusing on “Lift” for women around the world.  She responded to an interviewer asking how she finds the right way to work with people cross-culturally.

You always have to listen to what the people want.  You have to first go where they’re interested in going.  Just like anybody else, you can’t just come in with some brand-new idea.  I learned some of this really early on, when former President Jimmy Carter had been in global health work for a long time and we were just coming in.  He visited the foundation, and I asked, “What should we know now, so that we don’t make the same mistakes?”  He said, “Melinda, If I could give you one piece of advice, it’s that anything that you’re involved with around the world, the local people have to own it.  They have to see it as their project.”  We’ve tried to really take that approach almost everywhere we go. – Melinda Gates in Costco Connection, May 2019, p. 36.

This reminded me of a TED talk I use when teaching on cross-cultural communication.  Ernesto Sirolli’s 17 minutes is well worth your time. It’s entitled “Want to help someone – Shut up and listen!”

Every reader should watch this; especially all coaches, consultants, and cross-cultural workers.  The 17 minutes is well worth it.

In addition, I would encourage IBEC coaches and consultants to watch a video entitled “Transaction and Relationship in the Balance.” Coach and trainer, Rick Buddemeier, PhD. observes and asks:

Americans want to get off the plane and transact business. Much of the world begins with sharing life. If there is no relationship, there is no significant transacting.

If you feel your business relationships with Asians, Africans, or Arabs are inefficient or ill-defined, what do they say? What are their expectations? Why are people acting the way they are?

Finally, Fons Trompenaars puts the onus on us to be aware and proactive in our cross-cultural interactions when he says: “The international manager reconciles cultural dilemmas.”

Have you considered: How do YOU find the right way to work with people cross-culturally?

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures 

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