07 Feb Crazy Smart Mentoring Topics: Cultural Collaboration – It’s a Learnable Habit
Done correctly, the mentee experience can radically advance your career and change your life. The mentee typically has the most to gain from the relationship, and can benefit the most by being bold in conversations with their mentor. eMentorConnect offers this fourth of a five-part series on game-changing mentoring topics, to help mentees make the most of their mentorship opportunity.
Part 4: Cross-Cultural Collaboration
The ability to work across cultures is an increasingly sought-after skill in employees for a variety of vital reasons. The globalization of our workforces, high demand for innovation, as well as our ability to simply be productive and profitable requires the ability to collaborate among diverse perspectives and ideas.
Where to begin? Like many of us, you’ve probably sat in a meeting at one time or another, shaking your head and thinking to yourself, “What’s wrong with these people?!” Understood. It’s enjoyable and efficient to work with like minds and cultures because differences create a “rub” and sometimes, conflict. But the challenges – and opportunities – lie in understanding and valuing the backgrounds, perspectives and ideas of others. That’s the starting place.
Cultures within companies can take a variety of forms. Thinking broadly, differences can exist not only between people from different countries, but among organizational silos, functional verticals, gender, race and so on. The key for the mentee is to identify the cultural challenges as well as the knowledge, skills and motivation needed to address those challenges – specific to your work environment and your role. A mentor within your organization can offer the kind of insight that can only come from “living the experience” and having successfully developed their own cross-cultural collaboration skills.
Through the mentorship relationship, you can sharpen your awareness by uncovering your cultural assumptions and biases, as well as discover collaborative opportunities inherent in “conflict”.
Consider the following to discuss with your mentor:
About your current cultural challenge:
- What is a situation or person that I (mentee) find culturally challenging? Why?
- What are the attributes of this person/culture that I perceive as a challenge or weakness? Why?
- What is my part/my assumptions/my biases in the conflict?
- If we are not able to collaborate, what will the outcome look like?
About open-mindedness and empathy:
- What expertise/background/perspective does this person or group bring to the table?
- If they disagree with my perspective or approach, what is the strength in their perspective?
- What do I value and what do others value about the situation/group/person and why?
- If we are able to collaborate, what might the outcome(s) look like?
Questions for your mentor:
- What are the cross-cultural challenges that you (mentor) encounter in the workplace?
- How have you used collaboration skills to successfully bridge the cross-cultural gap?
- Can you suggest ways for me (mentee) to productively approach my situation?
- What do you see as the advantages if I am able to integrate both perspectives in this situation?
Why Should Your Company Care?
Cross-cultural competency has been named among the 10 most important skills for the future workforce by the Institute for the Future. An article from Harvard Business School listed above, showcases why learning to work with people from other cultures provides companies with the ability to connect ideas that have not been connected before to create something new and exciting – a product, a service or a process.
Money is also a key driver. A recent study by the Boston Consulting Group surveyed more than 1,700 companies in eight countries across a variety of industries and sizes. The greatest takeaway was that there was a strong and statistically significant correlation between the diversity of management teams and overall innovation.