In preparation for the upcoming CESSE and ASAE Annual Conferences, I have been gathering information and scheduling interviews with some of the key speakers and thought leaders for the conferences.
Today's interview (to be followed up with a video interview) is with Avinash Chandarana, MCI Group's Director of Global Learning and Development. He is the speaker for the opening keynote plenary at CESSE 2011 in Vancouver and I wanted to ask him a few questions about working with international cultures.
KiKi: What do most people *not* understand about (connecting or interacting with) managing people from different cultures?
Avinash: Underlying, "invisible" core values and attitudes often differ dramatically from one culture to another. One culture and therefore its people are neither right nor wrong than any other but just different in how they think, feel and act. This permeates into differences of communication style, etiquette, concepts of space and time and aspects of how business is conducted. Such differences are a source of great richness and diversity, but by not understanding what makes individuals from cultures other than your own behave in certain ways can lead to frustration, broken relationships and loss of business opportunities.
KiKi: What is the best piece of advice you have for an association "going global" with new employees in other regions?
Avinash: Learn to play the game according to the rules of your target markets. Don’t assume what works in terms of member services, benefits and overall stakeholder needs in your country and region will automatically translate to other cultures. Learn which values, traditions, and social norms drive behaviour amongst stakeholders in your target regions of the world. Understand and adapt strategy based on what members and prospects want from the organization by conducting thorough qualitative and quantitative research with key stakeholders before embarking on a global campaign. Similarly, hiring new staff within the country requires a thorough understanding of what motivates and drives them to be successful based on cultural influences. What makes them tick? In most Asian cultures for example, continuing education and training represents a significant benefit which directly impacts recruitment, engagement and overall staff retention. And if transplanting any staff from HQ to lead a local team in another part of the world, ensure they go through cultural immersion training and have them develop their CQ (Cultural Quotient)
KiKi: How would you describe your presentation style?
Avinash: Energetic, conversational and personal. I enjoy the opportunity to communicate and share my passion for subjects that have impacted my life and that have shaped me into the person I am today.
KiKi: What is the number one message every person should get from your presentation at CESSE?
Avinash: ‘Culture eats strategy and processes for lunch ’ Cultural interaction is a business imperative that needs to be managed – it cannot be left to chance. Develop a global mind-set to make culture work for you rather than against you to achieve competitive advantage.
Please watch this space for the follow up video interview that I will have with Avinash following his presentation in Vancouver.