It is rare that I have anyone question whether they, as a professional, need intercultural skills. With all the talk of the rise of new economies, globalization and the like it is kind of a given. Sometimes in my conversations I don’t get the chance to give the reasons why professionals might want to spend the time and energy to develop this capacity.
So here goes… 5+ reasons why intercultural skills matter:
- New market opportunities. According to the SBA 2/3 of the world’s purchasing power is held by 96% of the world’s population. Guess where the growth will come from? Probably not where you got your business yesterday.
- Improve global team effectiveness. Many organizations have operations spread all over the world. Making sure your functional teams are truly functioning can be a balancing act when they are complicated by many cultures.
- Reduce the cost of hires/transfers. Entrusting key assignments to personnel without the appropriate skills and training can cost money, time and focus.
- Make good business decisions. Improved intercultural skills (and the insights that come with it) can improve the decisions we make about our customers, suppliers and partners.
- Utilize the correct leadership style for the situation. What is expected of leaders and what constitutes good leadership can vary widely depending on the cultural context. Intercultural skills will help leaders decide when to change up their style.
Bonus reason… Flow. While there are lots of measurable, pragmatic reasons to have robust intercultural skills, perhaps one of the best reasons is to achieve what Dr. Csikszentmihalyi describes as “flow.” Being open, creative, stimulated, energized and engaged by our work is more likely when we are confident and working without unnecessary conflict.
These are some of my reasons. What about yours?