CBC recently had the privilege to guide a growing and globalizing West Coast company through an explorative journey towards working effectively in a multicultural environment.
Upon our initial consultation, it seemed that the company was experiencing the natural frustrations. Most small developing companies face these issues when stretching out of the familiarity found within American borders. Thus, throughout this article, we will refer to this company as simply, “The West Coasters.”
The West Coasters had extended its services to over 65 countries, and knew that they could only meet and surpass their global objectives if they understood the best country-specific strategies.
So, they gave us a call.
The West Coasters sat down at the virtual table with the following challenges:
- Communication style differences across time zones
- Unclear rules and processes
- Inconsistent procedures for onboarding international employees
These frustrations are commonly expressed by small companies expanding globally. We knew exactly what would help: CBC’s proven Culture Mastery 4C’s Process to build cultural competency.
We promptly took a seat next to them at the table. The primary learning objectives that we came up with were reached in the following order: First, guide the West Coasters to attain a deeper understanding of their own values, thinking, and behavior. Then, use those tools to understand the same in those they work with. Finally, use that internal and external knowledge to accelerate and deepen the company’s impact globally.
How did we accomplish this with The West Coasters?
With the abovementioned 4C’s Process.
- Calculate. Calculate and understand your own values that drive your behavior.
- Choose. Choose which of those values are negotiable or non-negotiable.
- Change. Change those that are negotiable to meet the needs of those you work with.
- Create. Create mutually understood communication processes and standard operating procedures.
The 4C’s Process manifested into three game-changing “aha!” moments for The West Coasters.
Aha! #1: US-EU Collaboration-Time/Communication
The West Coasters came to us with a concern about effective team collaboration across time zones and managing communication style differences. This particularly arose as they extended beyond their US West Coast origins toward global reach, beginning with the Scandinavian office.
Yes, wires were getting crossed and patience was wearing thin about the scheduling of virtual meetings between some US West Coast team members and their EU counterparts. But, below the surface of the scheduling challenges lurked deeper differences around time management and communication norms. These interrupt the creative flow and high-trust relationships so key to The West Coasters organizational DNA.
The Individual Culture Blueprint Indicator (ICBI), CBC’s cultural self-assessment, allowed participants to detect the underlying value differences. These are capable of distracting employees from contributing their best work. Breakthrough learning happened when EU colleagues were given a forum to express their appreciation for a congenial US West Coast operating style. But it also safely revealed their perceptions of US blind spots. This relates to the complexity of communication styles in the 27 member European Union. The 4Cs process enabled participants to generate new agreements for virtual team scheduling and collaborating. This simultaneously built a new foundation for clearer empathy across global boundaries in the future.
Aha! #2: Rules & Processes for Global Growth
As the West Coasters globalized, they needed a roadmap of clear rules and processes that can adapt to emerging local requirements.
But this balance is not easy to strike, given the traditional value the West Coasters placed on informal, egalitarian cooperation. An example of this challenge was the need to adapt company hardware for recently hired EU staff in Oslo. The US West Coast IT staff worked informally and one-to-one to adapt the hardware. However in the end the problem had to be solved locally, with a recently onboarded employee footing the bill for reimbursement. Further exploration revealed the need to adopt systemic processes for financing technology needs in dispersed global offices.
The 4C’s process to cultural competency enabled participants to dig below the surface problems of IT coordination to reveal a deeper need for systemic planning supporting global growth. The Director of IT could glimpse the need to stretch the organization’s informal, egalitarian preferences. This leverages a more top-down and standardized approach to financing emerging needs in remote global offices. The 4C’s approach led to breakthrough learning about the emotional impacts of ad-hoc informal support systems. The level of trust was increased by creating new more systems-based organizational agreements.
Aha! #3: Onboarding International Employees
The West Coasters came to us aware of the need to strengthen onboarding procedures and resources for new international employees.
CBC’s approach enabled the West Coasters managers to listen in a fresh way to the challenges of recently onboarded personnel, and together to map out better processes. One recent international hire felt safe enough to share with her boss that she had avoided communicating her struggles with new procedures during her first three months.
The 4C’s process revealed how face-saving communication patterns, common outside of the US, can hide the emotional undertow experienced during onboarding. This opportunity to listen first-hand to employee experiences led to creating the beginnings of a revised organizational agreement. Now there is a more robust onboarding procedure with time and resources designated to meet the needs of a range of cultural styles.
CBC’s proven 4C’s strategy to improve cultural competency enabled the West Coasters to uncover underlying cultural dynamics blocking efficient communication. The strategy also helped them generate practical solutions for improving team dynamics ‘today.’
This materialized as the following actionable steps:
- Ask colleagues their preference for either scheduled or impromptu meetings, and also their preference for communication via email, phone call, SLACK, etc
- Create Team Operating Agreements
- Dedicate time for the onboarding process so that new employees’ can better learn the rules and standard procedures of the company
When we first sat at the table with the West Coasters, we felt something exciting and visceral emanate from them. Amidst all of the differences that they came to us with that they wanted to overcome, there was one similarity amongst all that motivated their willingness to learn and adapt: an overwhelming passion for their company’s mission.
The 4C’s process harnessed that motivation and commitment to guide the West Coasters to tackle each of their organizational challenges with breakthrough team agreements and deep-bench cultural learning.
What challenges is your organization facing that limit its full potential to interact globally? How could CBC’s Culture Mastery 4C’s Process unleash the creative problem-solving to reach and surpass your goals as your work expands internationally?