“If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.” — Henry Ford
Partnering with business leaders in London, a melting pot of many cultures and nationalities, I often find one of their greatest challenges is handling different communication and working styles of their team members. Each team member may have different ways of interacting.
Working in a culturally-diverse team can be simultaneously stimulating and it can also be highly frustrating. The stimulus comes from multiple perspectives, practices and new ideas. These can also create misunderstanding or conflict, as we may not at first appreciate the nuance of the different thinking, values and practices. Indeed we may be dismissive of the different way of doing things without recognising that what we regard as the “right way” is conditioned by who we are as Observers.
For example, some within your team may be deferential and respect hierarchy. So they may be hesitant to speak out of turn. Some may be circumspect and use tentative language, which others see as lacking conviction or unreliable.
Some may have what Dr. Carol Dweck refers to as a “fixed mindset.” It is important to them to demonstrate their intelligence or command of the situation. Others may have what Dweck calls a “growth mindset.” They tend to view interactions as learning opportunities and will readily modify their approach.
For some, what they consider appropriate and how to speak to their colleagues differs based on gender.
Others are more direct. They believe that they add value by expressing their opinions and demonstrating their initiative.
Julie Hay describes 5 working styles and the drivers or motivators of people with these styles.
- “Hurry Up” enjoys having a lot to do and thrives on urgency
- “Be Perfect” focuses on accuracy and likes order
- “Please People” tends to be intuitive about other’s feelings and views
- “Try Hard” is motivated by the early stages of projects
- “Be Strong” welcomes pressure and demonstrating how they cope
Based on Hay’s description is it easy to see these different working styles can lead to miscommunication and frustration.
There are similar concepts people have used to describe working styles, such as the ‘Maximizer vs. Satisficer’ debate (essentially, perfectionist managers vs. ‘get it done alright’ managers) and the four types of contrasting personality styles in most offices.
How do we move forward despite working style differences?
If your message isn’t being understood or you are experiencing conflict, you are likely to be getting signals from your body — e.g. you may feel a tightness in your throat or a pain in your shoulders. You are also likely to be getting signals from your emotions of frustration, resentment or anger.
Don’t simply “solider on” ignoring the pain or burying your emotions. Take a deep breath, acknowledge what you are feeling and calm yourself. This may mean that you shift how you are standing or sitting. You may need to unclench your jaw and unfold your arms. You may need to take a break in the conversation and go for a walk or get a refreshment to clear your thinking.
- What do I know about the other person’s values, standards and norms?
- What assumption might he or she be making that is different from mine?
- If I looked at the issue from his or her perspective how might I handle it differently?
- How could I have a conversation to learn more about his or her preferred styles of working and communication?
- If I presented the information in a different way would it make more sense to the other person?
What other techniques have you used? We’d love to hear more from you.