Posts tagged Training
I recently finished a training for an Indian company which is operating in the US. The focus of this particular session was on HR practices in the US – discrimination, harassment, retaliation, etc. Of particular interest was the list of 30 questions which are considered illegal to ask during interviews, and ways to get around those questions. This comes as a shock to most Indians where within the first few minutes of an interview, the candidate’s family status, potential marriages, health concerns, children’s nicknames, full genealogy, and meal preferences are made clear.
We looked at the difference between universalist cultures (those which make rules that apply to all people), and particularist cultures (those that depend more on context and relationship). While this distinction was helpful for these Indian managers to understand the “why” behind all of these regulations, they were still baffled at the extent to which American interviewers essentially shackled themselves when trying to identify new talent.
Later I was in a session with some French managers in India who were trying to develop a strategy for hiring and retaining talented young women, knowing that a majority of them would be leaving the job soon after marriage. They were trying to solve the tension of not applying a discriminatory policy while at the same time recognizing the realities that existed. Soon they realized they were operating in a different world with different rules, but still needed to respect their corporate policies.
The blend of India and the West often produces interesting mixes, one of which is when extremely “politically correct” cultures that are highly regulated in terms of discrimination practices try to operate in a world where knowing how old someone is and their medical background is seen as intelligent information which needs to be considered. When I sat in on my first interview in India, I was quite shocked at the kind of information that was directly asked (“Any plans for marriage?”), and which ultimately impacted the decision to bring them on or find a new candidate.
Can India be considered “pre-politically correct”? Will the tide of lawsuits and thick HR policies inevitably roll into India in the same way that burgers and pizzas have become part of the urban diet? Or will India remain fiercely practical in this standpoint, claiming that knowing if someone is about to get married is paramount to their hiring strategy? Or perhaps as India gains influence in the world, they will provide multinationals with a compromise to this difficult cultural issue?
As companies continue to expand both from and into India, these questions will come to the forefront. India has always managed these tensions with their “temporary adaptation”, understanding the pressing needs, but refusing to change its core beliefs and values. This effect on the world of HR and the idea of being “politically correct” will be one to watch closely in the coming years, and one that the Global Leader will see coming and prepare for. Until an equilibrium is found, Global Adjustments will continue to stand in the gap and help build cultural understanding and strategy.
For more information on the sessions mentioned in this blog, along with our other offerings, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Just this last month, the German pharmaceutical company “Chemie Grunenthal” apologized after it was confirmed that the morning-sickness drug they produced was related to birth defects. This of course was 50 years after it was pulled off the shelves.
To admit a mistake in front of your world can be a dangerous thing. How does it affect your brand, your customer base, your legacy? The response to a mistake can make or break how you bounce back from it.
Looking at how companies apologize in different cultures brings a lot of insight and guidance when it comes to the art of saying “I’m sorry”. The opening example is fairly typical of a German company which will often take decades to admit to any official mistake.
Japanese executives who come from a face-saving culture with a high value on quality are routinely forced to apologize for not meeting high expectations. When Toyota had to issue a massive recall in 2009, the president of the company used words like “agonizing”, “extremely regrettable” and “deep remorse”.
When the American airline JetBlue had a serious logistics failure keeping passengers stuck on airplanes for several hours, they issued a public apology. Their COO did his best to come across as a regular guy who is just trying to put things back in order.
Here in India, the word “apology” is most frequently found after the word “demand”, usually referring to an outraged group or political party which wants someone to be held accountable. Sensitivities run high, but it is often difficult to find someone at the top level willing to accept responsibility.
One thing which is common among all apologies is the fact that people are usually not satisfied with them. Either they are not sincere enough, or their method of making amends is not fair. It seems that everyone is using a different scale to judge whether an apology was “good enough” or not, and it’s hard to get a perfect score.
You may not find yourself as the spokesperson for a massive tragedy, but the ability to apologize in different cultures is definitely a part of the Global Leader’s skill set. Author Gary Chapman has said that there are 5 “languages” or elements to an apology:
- Expressing regret – “I’m sorry”
- Accepting responsibility – “I’m wrong”
- Making restitution – “How can I make this right?”
- Genuine repentance – “I will do my best to never do that again”
- Requesting forgiveness – “Please forgive me”
One of those probably means a lot more than the other ones to you depending on your upbringing and culture. If you ever find yourself in a place where you need to give an apology (in the business world or outside of it), think through all the different “languages” and make sure you are addressing the one that is most important to your audience. Speaking directly to your listener’s most important concern will help you and them move forward to a better place.
I recently attended an event held by the Indo-French Chamber of Commerce featuring a panel of Indian and French business people talking about cross-cultural issues. At the end of the Q&A time, one Frenchman asked “What are the stereotypes that Indians have of French management?” One daring Indian panelist spoke up and said, “The French discuss and argue and discuss and argue, but they never will just take a decision and go with it.” Immediately the Indians in the room smiled in agreement, seeming like a long-held secret was just released.
However, one French panelist then spoke up and said “Actually, we feel that Indians are always waiting on us to decide things in their areas and won’t just make a decision and go with it.” This time all the French were smiling.
After an evening full of discussion focused on cross-culture from a theoretical standpoint, we had a real, honest example of two sides with totally different assumptions coming out in the open. Each group anxiously waits for the other to make a decision, engaged in a standoff which keeps real business from happening.
What makes this such a troublesome challenge to global businesses? From the Indian perspective, the essential role of management is to make decisions and inform the team where the ship is heading. Why should I make a decision if you have the degree, experience, position, and salary to make it?
To take a decision on your own exposes you to risk, failure, and possibly being the scapegoat. The currency of Indian business is loyalty, which Indians will give in droves, but initiative does not offer the same guaranteed rewards.
The French perspective says that if I’ve hired you to be the VP of HR, then why in the world do you need to wait on me to take a decision? I hired you to do a job and that includes making decisions and executing them. Failure can be an option and a good teacher, as long as you learn, and your manager will be supportive as long as you are making the best decision you can.
To take a decision is to accept responsibility, to prove yourself as a leader, to be shown as trustworthy and to gain respect. Europeans like results and the only way to get better results is to try something new.
Is this an area where we should compromise, or is one way better than the other in the international business world? It’s probably not for us to say, but if there is so much confusion surrounding who is going to make a decision, it sounds like a good place for the Global Citizen is out in front.
For a copy of our New Training Catalogue featuring all of our courses and modules, including Being Assertive, contact email@example.com.
Trimble thinks so.
Many people and companies still consider Cross Cultural Training as a “soft skill”, which means it’s only icing on the cake. Nice to have, but not essential to business.
However, some forward-thinking companies like Trimble see it as so essential that not only do they have each expat in India walk through our beautiful office after they get off the plane, they also give us awards when we do a great job.
Recently, our chief trainer, Shanti Puducheri, received the “I Make a Difference” award at Trimble’s annual Family Day Celebration. This award goes to individuals who significantly impacted the direct business of the company over the last year. And it’s worth noting that Shanti was the only non-employee to receive this award.
At Global Adjustments, we do more than just make people feel good about culture; we actually equip people with the hard skills they need to succeed in and out of India. Skills like giving performance reviews, leading a business meeting in India, picking up on Indian body language, and making change initiatives work.
So does Cross Cultural Training make a difference? We’ll let one of our favourite clients speak to that:
“Best half-day anyone can spend in India”
“The time went by so quickly. The content moves along at the right pace and the lessons can be fully absorbed.”
“While coming in with some experience of Indians, this course definitely gave me a deeper appreciation for the roots of Indian culture.”
“Shanti was great in making sure I understood the content. We discussed a lot of practical experiences and situations. I got a lot out of this course.”
“This was a great learning experience and will greatly benefit my day to day interactions with Indian employees.”
“I’m not just being nice- it couldn’t have been better”
Let our Cross Cultural Training make a big difference for your company too! Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information
Bangalore, Jan. 28, The Park Hotel, M.G. Road
Ranjini Manian’s new book “Upworldly Mobile” was released by Mr. N. R. Narayana Murthy, Founder of Infosys, in partnership with The Park Hotel Bangalore, on a lovely Saturday evening.
A turnout of about 120 business, diplomatic and society leaders of Bangalore listened enthralled as Ranjini shared real-life anecdotes of her 16 years experience running Global Adjustments and interacting with clients from 75 different nationalities. In a humorous and lively way, Ranjini stressed the importance of Cultural Intelligence and adjustments in business life, using her business story with the visiting delegation from a major German automotive company as an example. Years back, she played a role in convincing the Chairman of the Board Dr. Norbert Reithofer about Chennai as the preferred location for their factory, by impressing him with small – but powerful – adjustments to the German culture, e.g. being punctual to the minute. From the same encounter she learned several lessons:
- As you advance in hierarchy ladder, people are simple at the top: For instance, Dr. Reithofer, instead of using the provided fleet of cars, asked for a bus for himself and his colleagues to see India first hand.
- You need to be careful with stereotypical assumptions: When Ranjini asked Dr. Reithofer why he didn’t bother about hierarchy, he said “Well, what is hierarchy, after you have read the book “Who am I” of Ramana Maharshi?” – the German understands Indian philosophy and it’s time for the Indian to speak up for himself.
- If you do something that resonates with someone’s culture, do not hesitate to point that out: When Ranjini dropped Dr. Reithofer back perfectly on “German” time – he noted this and Global Adjustments was soon chosen as the preferred vendor for moving their employees to India.
Mr. Murthy, Founder of Infosys – India’s first company listed on the NASDAQ, New York – and currently independent director of several corporate boards (e.g. HSBC, Unilever, NDTV), stressed the need for Cultural Intelligence in today’s India. In his opinion, there could have been no better time to release a book like “Upworldly Mobile”, as Indians have a lot to learn from other cultures and consequently have to make many adjustments. Ranjini’s book would therefore be very useful in getting to understand the nuances of other cultures, without losing our own cultural roots, he pointed out. Becoming Upworldly Mobile would bring more prosperity to all sections of society – including the less privileged ones, he added.
Mr. Murthy ended by sharing four cross-cultural tips for Indians with his audience, drawing from his experience in leading a 130,000 employee multinational company – Infosys:
- Become “thick skinned”
- Increase integrity
- Say “yes” only after considering consequences
- Stay friendly but don’t get intimate
Find out what he meant by watching the video below:
What is funny in one culture doesn’t always translate well.
My parents were visiting India from the US and I took them to meet my neighbor Uncle and Auntie. My wife and I had spent a long time developing a good relationship with this family through careful attention to respecting their culture and watching a lot of cricket. As soon as I introduced him, my father (not the poster-child for cultural awareness) says “Hey, you guys don’t seem half as bad as my son said you were!”, which in American translates as “It’s nice to meet you”. However, the joke was lost and we spent the rest of the evening trying to reassure our neighbors that we really don’t say bad things about them and my father rarely travels out of the state.
Humor is a tough thing to get a hold of in a new culture. It is often cited as the last phase of enculturating into a new life. If you can make a joke in a new language, and other people laugh, it’s a sure sign you’ve arrived.
Indians love to laugh, but the epitome of hilarity (at least in South India) is the bumbling sidekick who must look and sound as ridiculous as possible which makes the hero of the movie seem even more strong, intelligent, and anti-bumbling. If nothing else, this has provided good job security for those less-attractive actors.
At Global Adjustments, we had the opportunity to work with some Australian businessmen who were coming in to do business in India. On one visit, the Managing Director and another Director of the company had come to meet with some people in India. The Managing Director introduced himself and then turned to his partner and said, “And this here is old big-nose who doesn’t know anything.” To which, the other man replied, “Well, sir, you didn’t have to be so kind!”
Of course the young Indian audience was floored that two men of such standing would say that kind of thing to each other in public! However, in Australia this is called “taking the piss” and is an affectionate way for people to talk with each other.
Whether in Australia, India, or the US, if you can’t figure out why everyone else is laughing, either the joke is on you, or like so many other things – it’s just cultural.
We love to laugh in our trainings! For more information about our cross-cultural training programs, contact email@example.com.
Craig Storti, world famous Guru in the field of intercultural communications and cross-cultural adaptation and the author of several standard works, including Culture Matters, a cross-cultural workbook used by the U.S. Government in over 90 countries, appreciates Ranjini’s work with the following email:
Just finished Upworldly Mobile. An excellent blend of very practical advice and yet touching on much bigger themes. I imagine that not just Indian readers but many others will find it very helpful. I was especially pleased to see you using “We And They.” It’s one of my favorite cross-cultural literary references, and I too used it as the frontispiece years ago for my book: The Art of Crossing Cultures.
I had forgotten that you were going to reference yours truly in this book and was delighted to see what good use you made of some of my thoughts.
All the best
A few months ago, this was the most popular picture in China. Is there anything striking about this shot of a man with his daughter ordering a morning coffee before a long flight? For the most part, there is nothing to notice. Unless you knew that this man is Gary Locke, the US Ambassador to China.
China, like several other Asian countries (including our own India), is very hierarchical in its structure: socially, in business, and especially in politics. The reason so many in China responded to this picture is that they are not used to seeing high level diplomats 1.) Carrying their own backpack, 2.) Owning a backpack, 3.) Taking care of their own children, and 4.) Ordering their own coffee. In such structures, there is always someone else to do these tasks.
For those in the West, hierarchy can be a dirty word. They like their leaders to be humble and their bosses to have open doors. However, before we go throwing away the idea of hierarchy, and assuming that everyone else should, another story should be shared.
A client of ours was a leading executive of a foreign company having some issues with land disputes where they were going to build a factory. Instead of relying on his mediators, this man decided that the best way to solve this was to cut through all the red tape and be a “man of the people”. He learned a few words in the local dialect, put on his blue jeans, jumped on his motorcycle, and headed to the village to sort out the problem. The only problem was that when he arrived, the local people only kept asking him when the real boss was going to show up. They didn’t want to talk to a man on a bike, they wanted to talk to a man with power who can command a large staff, drive up in big cars, and impose his will where needed. They were looking for someone to talk to who could go back and immediately get something done, and what they saw in front of them was not that. Needless to say, the talks didn’t go so well.
So how should foreigners respond in new fields where the rules are different? Westerners coming to China, India, or other hierarchical cultures could take a cue that while ordering your own coffee is one thing, you should be very sensitive to the structures already in place and do your best to honor them, or you might end up doing more damage than good. For those traveling outside, it’s good to remember that if someone doesn’t seem to respect your title or tells you to make your own coffee, it’s nothing personal – just the way things are.
For information on our training courses where we cover issues of hierarchy and many others, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
What are your first thoughts when you hear that you have a training scheduled? Typically you are informed one day beforehand right in the middle of a big project. And then you find out the topic: culture. Seriously? I have to give up a whole day to learn about dancing and singing and how to bow and shake hands?
That’s the typical response that most people have when they are told that they have to go to our training. We know because we ask. Participants usually say something like: “I was actually irritated to have to come to a training session on culture and thought of it as a waste of time considering I have so much to do at work but something I had to comply with”, or “I was thinking it will be another boring training session.”
We’ve all been there, and too often, the training is not at all worth it.
But recently, one of our senior trainers, Shanti Puducheri, completed a two day training for some participants who will be working with Germany. At the end they were saying, “I am so glad the company made it mandatory because I did not realize what a deep impact culture has on communication – It was an eye opener“.
At Global Adjustments we take our approach to training seriously. We look at things from a much deeper approach than just how to meet and greet. We help you understand how much of an impact culture has on your entire personality. Another participant said he knew it would be different when “the trainer had asked for a phone meeting to find out our exact requirements. I was impressed at the due diligence and knew it was would be a different kind of session.”
So, next time you find out that you have to attend a training session, be sure to look at who is doing it before you dread it. It just might make your day!
For more information about our training courses, contact us at email@example.com
Vijayadashmi is a special festival day in the Hindu calendar which is a very auspicious day for starting a new form of learning. Global Adjustments celebrated this year by starting something called Collective Wisdom.
In our training department, we are constantly trying to find ways to “upskill” young Indians to be prepared for the world. Issues like showing initiative, business writing, summarizing information, and many other things discussed in Upworldly Mobile sometimes don’t come easy. While we are passionate about seeing these skills instilled in young Indians, we also know that two heads are always better than one when it comes to the How.
Thus, we invited 10 thinkers to our India Immersion Centre to ask a few simple questions about one topic: Assertiveness. Moderated by Mr. Eric Gossard of Hospira, we examined the idea of what assertiveness is, how it fits in the Indian culture, and how to teach it to people. The event was extremely stimulating for those who attended: a mix of small business owners, students, trainers, professors and corporate heads.
As we continue to work towards making Global Citizens, it will take more than just one of us thinking. At Global Adjustments, we know that we need to rely on our “extended family” to reach this goal. Be on the lookout for more Collective Wisdom gatherings!
The Training Team
(Here’s a hint if you want to be invited for the next one: make sure to comment on Ranjini’s Business Line articles.)