My professional colleague, friend and global communication expert, Tina Varughese last gave us a guest post earlier this summer offering cross-cultural communication tips for women. So I’m thrilled that I persuaded her to make a repeat appearance on the blog today. In her post below, Tina explores the value of “small talk” and its importance in the world of business global communication.
P.S. I am also very excited to tell you that I will be sharing the platform with Tina (and two other eloquent thought-leaders) at the Customer Service Leadership Summit next month on November 15. I’ll give you more information about the Summit at the end of this post, but first, here is Tina’s contribution.
How important is “small talk” in business global communication?
According to Andy Molinsky, author of Global Dexterity: How to Adapt Your Behavior Across Cultures without Losing Yourself in the Process, effectiveness can be limited if global dexterity is not adopted. Yet, global dexterity can be a challenging skill to acquire – and can take some time and flexibility. Engaging in ‘small talk’ can feel inauthentic if it’s not part of your cultural norm. Managers can feel frustrated and angry when needing to conform to cultural norms that conflict with their own cultural beliefs and values.
Even when interviewing for a new position, the human resources advisor will often ask if you found the building without issue. He may even talk a little about the crazy snowfall we had yesterday – or even the Calgary Flames’ loss. This part of the ‘interview’ will last about sixty seconds … or even more … depending on how necessary it is. Small talk is, essentially, benign conversation that puts both parties at ease and is essential to Canadian business and global communication. Does ‘small talk’ differ around the world? Absolutely! How important is it? Depending on where you are, it can make or break global business negotiations, assist in creating long-lasting relationships, or potentially contribute to losing millions in revenue. Continue reading
Tina Varughese is not only an expert on workplace diversity and cross-cultural communication, she’s also my professional colleague and my friend. I am also thrilled that I will be sharing the platform with her later this year at the Customer Service Leadership Summit in Calgary. Tina’s opening keynote at this prestigious event is titled “50 Shades of Beige – Successful sales and service to all cultures.” Yeah, I know, the irreverent title should give you some inkling as to how thought-provoking and hilarious she is going to be. Anyway, more about the Customer Service Leadership Summit at the end of this post. To the business at hand, I asked Tina to guest on the blog today, and she brought a perspective that I don’t often cover on the blog – that of women in international business. True, I often write about cross-cultural communication and differences, but Tina’s post today focuses on an even tighter subset – women and cross-cultural communication.
The Perception of Women in International Business
As a woman in business, you may need to be prepared for culture-specific expectations and practices in business situations. Understanding cross-cultural differences and having an understanding of cross-cultural communication will definitely further career goals. Building close business relationships with people from other cultures might often be more difficult than it is for male colleagues. There are ways to build these relationships and prove yourself as a trustworthy and respected professional that will often need to differ from how males accomplish this. Continue reading
What does it take to make the sale? I’ve always believed that if you want people to buy — buy your product, or your service, or even you — then you need to show them, clearly, in brilliant technicolour, the compelling value that you have to offer. Which means that you do whatever it takes to help them see, first-hand, what it is that you or your product or your service does to meet their needs or make their lives easier. If you want to make the sale to me, then you need to show me what value I receive. Yet I come across so many people who don’t get this! A few years ago, I blogged about the leasing agent to tried (unsuccessfully) to get me to rent an apartment without letting me see it. She was too lazy to even let me see the inside of an apartment that she wanted me to lease; apparently the photos she posted on the Internet should have been sufficient.
She wanted me to buy without telling me what I was going to receive!
Well a few weeks ago, I came across a similar situation, this time with Dell, the computer folks. My hard drive failed (a story in itself) and in order to restore my system we had to contact Dell to get them to send the USB recovery key.
“It will cost $27” said the unhelpful lady on the phone.
“Okay, when can I expect to receive it?” I asked.
“I can’t tell you until you pay for it.”
“If I can’t get it in a couple of day, tops, then I’ll go in another direction. So I need to know the expected delivery date in order to make my decision as to whether to get it or not” Continue reading
Last month I got pulled over by local law enforcement and was issued a $310 ticket and a summons to appear in court. The ticket was legitimate; after all I was (unbeknownst to me) driving around town with an expired registration. But the whole mess caused me to ask the question: Are you (inadvertently) taking actions that set people up to fail? My premise was that the province of Alberta made a unilateral change in its procedures earlier this year without notifying those who were directly affected. And that’s a sure-fire recipe for setting people up to fail! The change: vehicle owners would no longer receive a reminder that their registration was expiring; it was now their responsibility to track expiry dates and renew accordingly. And, you might ask, how were people to become aware of this change? The assumption was that people would find out through announcements in traditional and social media. Unfortunately, and to my bad luck, I was traveling out of the country during the “media blitz” and was blissfully unaware of the change … until of course I got pulled over by one of the boys in blue.
So on July 20th I made my way down to the local provincial courthouse to do as the ticket had commanded – present myself to a Justice of the Peace to make my case, and if I was not successful, to pay the fine. Simple, right? Wrong. When I arrived, there were approximately 75 people in line ahead of me, many of whom were there for exactly the same violation. Continue reading
So I got pulled by a police officer the other day; and got a first-hand experience of what it takes to set people up to fail. Turns out my vehicle registration had expired on April 30, and apparently I have been driving with expired plates for over six weeks. Twenty minutes and a $310 fine later, I made my way to the vehicle registration office to renew the offending document. Now you might ask why I was driving with an expired certificate (the officer did). My answer – I didn’t know that it had expired! You see, for the last more than 30 years, I have always received a notice in the mail a few weeks before the registration was due to expire, which was my reminder to make a visit to the renewals office. This year though, there has been a change in procedures in the province of Alberta. The applicable government agency made a decision in March of this year that effective April 1, they would no longer send out renewal notices via mail, a move designed to save the province (and taxpayers) roughly $3 million per year. Instead, drivers are expected to go online and sign up for email notifications. Hey, I’m all for saving money, but wouldn’t it have been more intelligent to send out one last notice in the mail advising people that the province was switching to email notifications only? I get that email notifications are a more cost-effective solution, but how exactly was I supposed to know that I needed to sign up for this? Making a unilateral change without a reasonable effort to advise those affected is inherently designed to set people up to fail! (See Are you guilty of setting your employees up to fail?)
Sure, the penalty is legitimate (I was driving with expired plates after all) and I’ll pay it. Continue reading
I often write in the blog about what it takes to become more persuasive in the workplace (including this column I wrote last year for Profit Magazine). A few weeks ago, one of my professional colleagues offered me a perspective I’ve never considered before, one that caught my attention enough that I want to share it with you. She said that when you seek to influence others, you can make your message more persuasive simply by adapting the classic villain-victim-hero action story-telling technique. Let me explain.
The customary formula for writing an action story requires that you have at least one villain, one victim and one hero. And you can do the same for the business world. But when you adapt this formula for the workplace, Continue reading
For the last few weeks, off-and-on, I’ve been blogging about the things people do when they send email that negatively impacts both their credibility and effectiveness. My last post was on how it’s critical to offer your phone number as an alternate way for your email recipients to contact you. Today I thought I’d make one final point that’s been at the back of my mind ever since we started on this subject.
In my opinion, the biggest blunder that people make with email is sending one when they shouldn’t! There are times when picking up the telephone or walking down the hall to talk to the person is a far better alternative than sending an email. Sure, email may seem easier at first blush, but if your message is likely to escalate emotions, then email should never be your first choice, or for that matter, any choice. In fact, email in such situations is more likely to deteriorate into what I call “email warfare” – a rapid-fire exchange of emails, each one more emotionally-charged than the last, and usually cc’d to additional people in each round. Never a recipe for a positive outcome! As powerful as the written word can be, it simply cannot reflect the nuances that exist in facial expressions, body posture, tone, pace, pitch and volume of voice. Which means that emails can be easily misunderstood, particularly when the topic being discussed is emotionally-charged. The alternative: talk to the person face-to-face, or if that’s not possible, pick up the phone. Even a voice mail is preferable to an email in such circumstances.
Well, have you observed situations of “email warfare” gone horribly wrong? Do tell.
Since we’ve been talking about email effectiveness here on the blog for the last little while (getting the subject line right, not sending FYI emails, and the importance of grammar and spell check), here’s one more. Make it easy for your addressee to get a hold of you. Make sure your signature line has at least one alternate way to contact you. You want people to act on what you say, right? So make it simple. Sometimes, the other person will realize that a back-and-forth email exchange is not the best way to resolve whatever it is you’re discussing. Give them easy access to your phone number so that they can pick up the telephone and get things dealt with. Don’t make them hunt for this information, make it effortless for them. Here’s the odd thing about this – people may not notice that you’re offering up this alternate way to contact them. But they sure as heck will notice if you don’t. Do you really want to be remembered because you irritated them? Yeah, didn’t think so. So make sure that you have your phone number or other easy way for people to contact you right there in your email signature line.
Next blog post I’ll have one final idea in this series. But in the meantime, what else do you have to add to the list of how people (unknowingly) sabotage their credibility through their email communication? Tell us, so that we can all be warned!
Earlier this month, I penned a couple of posts about things people do that sabotage the effectiveness of their emails – specifically, not getting your subject line right, and sending email that is “Just FYI”. Given some of the interest it generated, I thought it would be worth covering some more in the next few blog posts.
Poorly written emails will hurt you, and hinder your career success. This one is so obvious that I can’t believe I have to say it … but I do. Mainly because so many people don’t! Check your email for correct spelling, punctuation and grammar before you hit “Send”. Yes, I know it’s only email, but the honest unvarnished truth is that other people are constantly making judgements about you. About your credibility, about your reliability, even about your intelligence. And whether you like it or not, whether you know it or not, people make judgements about you based on the quality of your writing. They do. So if your email is sloppily written, then guess what immediate assumption they’re making about you? For the few moments it takes to write full sentences and quickly proofread, don’t jeopardize your credibility in the eyes of others by sending out poorly written emails.
It’s just email, isn’t it? Does it really require the same high level of writing skill as a formal letter? You know my opinion, but what about yours? Do you agree or disagree?
Last week I blogged about how you need to get your email subject line right if you want to be taken seriously. Today I thought I’d cover another email blunder people make that just completely destroys their credibility. Don’t send email that is “Just FYI”.
Yeah, I’m talking to those of you who go “cc crazy” – copying everyone and anyone who might have a passing interest or faintly tenuous connection to whatever it is you’re writing about. Yes, I realize that some of you might do it to “cover your ass”. Don’t. If you want your messages to really matter, word of advice – don’t copy too many people. Think about it, just about everyone today I know gets far more email than they know what the heck to do with! So … if you are cautious and thoughtful about who you send your emails to, if you are judicious in the amount of email you generate, you WILL stand out from the crowd. Consider this – if your track record is that you send out a lot of email marked Just FYI, or just for your information, then people begin to assume that everything you send them falls into that category. And the few emails you send that really do matter simply get lost in the crowd. Prudency in who you choose to cc on your messages will give you a well-respected standing amongst your peers, your staff, and senior executives in your organization.
So … do you agree? Is “Just FYI” creating an email deluge that dilutes a message? Or does it serve a useful purpose? Share your thoughts please.