3 Ways to Help People Step Out of Their Cultural Comfort Zones During Meetings

When dealing with a multicultural team, it is highly necessary to practice specific principles to encourage each member's engagement. This is all the more important if exposure to diverse cultures and culture sensitivity wasn’t one of the requirements for hiring in the company's end-to-end recruitment process --- most especially for executive recruitment.

Here are three principles to help people step out of their Cultural Comfort Zones:

  1. Double-check your assumptions

    Oftentimes, since you are coming from a culture-specific background, you have ways of seeing things and doing things that seem very natural and "normal." This is also the case for people coming from other cultural backgrounds.

    But when these culturally diverse people are brought together, conflicts are sure to arise because people are operating from their own perspectives and tendencies --- and it may take a while for them to learn to adjust to the perspectives and tendencies of others.

    For example, Asian colleagues may not be open to receiving feedback directly, whereas colleagues from Western countries have no problem with giving and receiving direct feedback. The Asians may find the Westerners too blunt and perceive them as difficult persons to deal with, while it is absolutely not a big deal for the Westerners.

    Learn about the differences in perception and practice especially in terms of work ethics among different cultures, and how these differences may affect the dynamics of your team.

  2. Establish protocols to manage cultural differences

    Cultural differences would not be an issue if you set protocols that would go beyond culture-specific practices. Agreeing as a team on systems and protocols that would maximize everyone's time, talent and participation would help build a team culture that works for everyone.

    For instance, some colleagues come from cultures that are more laid back and fluid in terms of time. Help these team members understand the value of punctuality and maximizing time for optimum productivity.

    If you have younger team mates from cultures where seniority in age is given more leadership opportunities and decision-making roles, limiting the younger ones' interest in showing what they are truly capable of --- then help them step up by assigning opportunities to lead team meetings and projects according to their skills and expertise.

  3. Provide incentives

    People are usually set on their ways of being and doing things, so it serves as a challenge for them to overcome their cultural behaviors. But if you observe that this is affecting the team dynamics negatively, you need to figure out strategies to get everyone out of their cultural comfort zones.

    One way is by institutionalizing rewards for things that you want people to be motivated to do.
Let's say you want to encourage people to be more open to giving and receiving feedback. You could include this in the annual performance evaluation and make it as a requirement for promotions. You may use a points system for this, and set rewards for people who do it well, and even set penalties for those who fail to comply. This may feel uncomfortable to everyone at the beginning, but as it becomes part of the regular practice, people would gradually get used to it.

So don't fret, now you're all set to create an environment for people to be more comfortable in achieving their potential beyond cultural limitations. Firmness and consistency is key for these principles to work and help you in achieving optimum team performance. Giving people a nudge out of their cultural comfort zones not only stretches their potentials, but also contributes to productive meetings and helps get to the bottom line of coming together --- to get the job done.

It’s inevitable that we are asked to collaborate with colleagues with different beliefs and way of doing things. How can we harmoniously work with people who are different from us and still achieve our team goals? Follow our blog to read our next post on How To Avoid World War 3 During Multicultural Meetings.

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