I seem to have had a few conversations with clients recently on the need for personal motivation as a driving force to succeed in international communications. By motivation I am referring to the type of psychological drivers the individual needs to have the personal desire to really want to learn about and understand their international partners; to understand their culture, values, and work practices.
This is not simply a motivation to progress their career where that progression includes a period of international working as a step up the ladder. Although it is generalising, many individuals looking for international or intercultural assignments simply to progress to the next level of their career, who lack the will and desire to understand their international partners, could easily damage the very international relationship they should be charged with enhancing.
Without this motivation to understand colleagues from other cultures, it becomes easy for the individual spending time working in the foreign country, or in their home nation with people from another culture, to loose sight of the cultural differences and see only obstacles when things become difficult to manage or the pressure in the project increases. In these situations, the lesser motivated person, or the one motivated only by career goals will revert to their home culture work methods and may well start to become a destructive rather than constructive member of the project team.
As an individual, before pursuing or accepting an overseas assignment or a position which will require a substantial level of international communication, I would recommend that you examine your personal motivation to work in the intercultural situation this will put you.
- How much do you really want to work in this position and,
- How much do you know about the culture you will be exposed to?
If you are unsure, learn a little about the new culture, try to meet with people either from the culture you will be exposed to or who have been through similar situations to the one you will be facing, learn as much as you can from them then review your position. You may well find this approach not only helps you prepare for the role, but will also inspire you to find the true intercultural motivation you will need to get the most from the opportunity, both at a personal and professional level.
As an employer, when selecting personnel for these intercultural assignments, it is important to carefully review the candidates suitability, not just look at their track record and how successful they have been in their previous positions but also what those positions required of them and what their motivations would be to be successful and effective in an international or intercultural environment. For example, a manager who has been very successful in their previous positions, but where those positions were all single culture situations, where their management style proved to be highly effective, may find it hard to lead effectively in a culture with very different power distance or uncertainty levels to the one the manager has spent their career to date working in. This candidate may of course be the right choice, and may only need coaching in the cultural differences they will need to consider before making the change.
Any organisational support must be considered and in place before any deployment is finalised, since the selection of a candidate with the wrong skill set and motivation can lead to the rapid destruction of trust between the cultures resulting from a manager being incapable or unwilling to adapt to the cultural differences.
Even a candidate will the best credentials, but the wrong personal and career motives for international projects, will be more likely to fail in these situations than one with equal or even lesser credentials, but high levels of true intercultural motivation.
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Do you have any experiences with managing motivation with yourself or your personnel for international or cross cultural projects you would like to share? If so, we would love to hear from you.
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