Does “YES” mean “YES” or “MAYBE” or “NO”?

Leading and managing effectively in the 21st century

Companies and individuals who succeed in the 21st century understand how to translate their core expertise across cultures, develop their leadership skills with an understanding of global and local cultural needs and know how to manage according to local cultural expectations.

In this century, we do not need training in the “hard skills”, what we do need is awareness and knowledge of the “soft skills”.

In the post-global world, most international companies are themselves multicultural environments, spread out across continents and create a work environment that is far more multicultural than the original culture in which they are located. Therefore it is not sufficient that managers of companies in today’s post-global market understand the cultural attributes of a specific culture; they need to master a “global mindset” of understanding a way to “be globally”.

Culture hides more than it reveals

Imagine culture as an iceberg – The tip of the iceberg contains our “explicit culture”, everything that we perceive to be similar or different: Language, Food, Architecture, Music, Dress, Religion etc. But the majority of the iceberg is hidden below the surface, which is the arena where inter-cultural experts such as I do most of our work. The below the “sea level” includes traditions, values and norms and is manifested through how we view human relationships, how we view time, and the one that I consider the most important: How do we COMMUNICATE with each other?



Every organization, and specifically one that operates in a multicultural environment needs to create a unified vision regarding its “implicit” organizational culture in terms of the following:

  1. Human Relationships: Individualism vs. Collectivism, Hierarchy, Status Rank vs. Egalitarianism;
  2. Time: Polychronic vs. Monochronic;
  3. Risk-avoidant vs. Risk-Comfortable;
  4. Details, Process, Deductive vs. Decisive, Results, Inductive;
  5. Communication: High Context vs Low Context, Harmony, Indirect vs. Confrontation, Direct;
  6. Achievement, Task vs. Balance, Nurture.

Cultural self-awareness

In my inter-cultural training sessions, before we begin to discuss “multiculturalism” within the organization, I first encourage the participants to explore and understand their own culture. One cannot acquire global cultural skills before becoming culturally self-aware, understanding one’s own cultural assumptions, values and behaviors.

Much of the above, can be concluded with the following metaphor:

“The light is red, but there are no cars on the road. Do you wait for the green light or do you cross the street because the “situation” allows it”?