Cultural Mentoring


As companies globalize and workplaces become more diverse we often find it very difficult to understand the different ways of working preferred by the people around us.
When we are the one foreigner in a room full of locals, it can cause what we call culture shock – feelings of anxiety, stress and isolation combined with a degree of helplessness. On the other hand, if we are suddenly made responsible for managing a foreign staff member or foreign team, we may struggle to understand their motivations and be mystified by why they don’t see or do things the way we expect. Both of these situations can de-stabilize us and impact our ability to perform at our best.
At times like these the best thing we can do is seek out a cultural mentor – someone who understands the culture and who can explain it to us.

Getting Help Discretely
In many companies and cultures we are expected to just “soldier on” and not admit that we are having trouble or feeling anxiety or stress in these situations. This only adds to the problem. Culture training programs can be helpful – they are good at showing us the theoretical frameworks that help to explain general behavior patterns and preferences across cultures. But sometimes the timing and the generic nature of such training is a disadvantage.
So finding someone who we can have discreet and confidential discussions with – when we need them – can be a big help.
An experienced culture mentor can provide answers to some critical questions:

  • Why do our co-workers behave the way that they do?
  • What might be the key motivators for this person?
  • What are the core values driving this person’s behavior? How can I motivate them to do what needs to be done?
  • What is expected of me as a manager? What things should I avoid doing in this situation?
  • How can I modify my expectations and behavior to help me achieve my goals in this situation?

If you are finding it difficult to manage a challenging cross-cultural situation, reach out to a cultural mentor.

This post is also available in: Japanese