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Executive Presence: Six Dimensions to Build Trusting Multicultural Relationships (Power Distance Index)

Executive Presence:  Six Dimensions to Build Trusting Multicultural Relationships (Power Distance Index)
(source:  United Nations.org)

(source: United Nations.org)

by Terri L. Williams

The organization created to promote international co-operation, the United Nations (UN) is celebrating its 70th year today.   The UN was established on 24 October 1945 after World War II in order to prevent another such conflict. The organization’s objectives include maintaining international peace and security, promoting human rights, fostering social and economic development, protecting the environment, and providing humanitarian aid in cases of famine, natural disaster, and armed conflict.

At its founding, the UN had 51 member states; there are now 193. The headquarters of the United Nations is in Manhattan, New York City. Further main offices are situated in Geneva, Nairobi and Vienna.

There are over 190 countries in the world.  Traditions and customs are representations of respect for individuals, organizations, and countries.  The easiest way to disrespect an individual, organization, or country is to demonstrate insensitivity to their customs and traditions.

There is not a uniform approach to understanding any country’s social/business culture or etiquette. Additionally, personal cultures of individuals, whether they be religious, regional, gender, corporate or otherwise should be taken into consideration. Knowledge can assist in improving understanding and avoiding offenses.

Obama-UN

President Barack Obama speaking at the United Nations (Source: Google Images)

The flow of business personnel internationally has meant that people are now having to work more and more in foreign environments and alongside people of different cultures. Being a manager in a foreign country is never an easy task. One has to deal with differences in business culture, etiquette, man-management styles, communication styles and much more.  For example, I lived overseas in the Republic of South Korea for three years.  In order to become effective in my new country my organization required me to learn Korean culture, customs, manners, etiquette, and values to understand the people better.

UN-Obama

President Obama departing a session at the United Nations (Source: Google Images)

 

We are hardwired for connection

-Dr. Brene Brown, American scholar, author, and public speaker

 

 

 

 

 

 

EXECUTIVE PRESENCE PERSPECTIVES

Globalization, multiculturalism, cross-culturalism, demographic shifts are all trends that signal the need to demonstrate skills with diverse cultures is imperative.  The demand is high for those individuals that can deal with a wide range of communications situations and communicate smoothly across cultures.  One of the most important global competencies leaders can obtain is cultural insight that enhances business relationships.

According to Dr. David Livermore, President of the Cultural Intelligence Center, a midwestern think tank, Coca-Cola sells more beverages in Japan than in the U.S.; entrepreneurs in China, Brazil, and Nigeria create businesses that compete with mammoth Western corporations; and virtual meetings and conference calls happen across borders around the clock.  Similary, Retired Four-Star General Stanley McChrystal stated in a recent Ted Talk, “…instead of being able to get all the key leaders for a decision together in a single room and look them in the eye and build their confidence and get trust from them, I’m now leading a force that’s dispersed, and I’ve got to use other techniques. I’ve got to use video teleconferences, I’ve got to use chat, I’ve got to use email, I’ve got to use phone calls — I’ve got to use everything I can, not just for communication, but for leadership.”

 

Rank

(Source: Google Images)

For example understanding the importance of rank and status everywhere in the world is imperative to business. In North America, in some organizations, the CEO is on a first name basis with the mailroom attendant. This style of business behavior depends on the culture of the company. Internationally, status is accorded differently. Professor Emeritus Geert Hofstede, of Maastricht University in the Netherlands, says there is a key intercultural dimension that can predict how status is accorded. This factor is called the Power Distance Index.  Hofstede has identified this fundamental influence in every culture. It explains the sharing of “power” among persons and factions within a social group, and the way in which any differences in authority are handled inside these communities.

 

Rank is of great consequence to citizens of nations beyond North America. To appreciate the significance of position and standing in other places around the globe, we should think about our personal notion of these ideas. One is certainly aware of organizations where the CEO is familiar with the clerk in the mailroom. While such professional conduct is possible for certain businesses in Canada and the United States, it is unusual elsewhere.

You must expect to have to follow procedure in all of your transactions overseas. The job title you hold in your own country determines the counterpart you will join with in your sought-after territory—i.e. VP’s get together with other VP’s.

Hofstede’s Power Distance Index chart below an example of the comparative differences in power distance on a global scale by country:

Power Distance

(Source: Google Images)

 

Additionally, Here is a snapshot of the range in power distance index from small to large from Hofstede’s Culture’s Consequences, Comparing Values, Behaviors, Institutions, and Organizations Across Nations:

SMALL POWER DISTANCE

(scores lower than 50:  US, Canada, Australia, Germany, UK, Sweden)

• Disparities between individuals ought to be diminished
• Parents regard their offspring as contemporaries
• Underlings anticipate discussion
• The model supervisor is creative and open
• Educators demand their pupils show ingenuity

LARGE POWER DISTANCE

(scores higher than 50:  Russia, China, India, and France)
• Disparities between individuals are not only accepted they are considered necessary
• Parents regard their offspring as subservient
• Underlings anticipate being given instructions
• The model supervisor is authoritarian
• Educators usually plan their lessons

 

Gret

Geert Hofstede (Source: Google Images)

Geert Hofstede created the model of national culture, which consists of six dimensions. The cultural dimensions represent independent preferences for one state of affairs over another that distinguish countries (rather than individuals) from each other. The model consists of the following dimensions:

  1. Power Distance Index (PDI)
  2. Individualism versus Collectivism (IDV)
  3. Masculinity versus Femininity (MAS)
  4. Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI)
  5. Long Term Orientation versus Short Term Normative Orientation (LTO)*
  6. Indulgence versus Restraint (IND)

 

Using Hofstede’s model of six national culture dimensions can aid us in understanding customs and cultures to ensure our behavior is respectful when interacting in multicultural environments. We will explore each of Hofstede’s dimensions in the upcoming weeks.

 

SOURCES

  1. Hofstede, Geert. Culture’s Consequences, Comparing Values, Behaviors, Institutions, and Organizations Across Nations Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications; Second Edition; February 2003
  2. http://users.tkk.fi/~vesanto/ihfudge/culture-part2.html
  3. http://www.un.org/en/index.html

 


panache-logoTerri L. Williams is an executive presence expert specializing in communications, gravitas, and appearance. She is a seasoned professional with more than 25 years of specialized experience in human resource management and corporate protocol. Terri is also a veteran of the United States Army, with service in domestic and international assignments. As the President and Founder of Panache Career Strategies, LLC, Terri L. Williams leads Executive Presence training programs and seminars that can help you to improve your skills. A leader in facilitating the “gold standard” in a wide range of services focused on solutions for individual, group, customized programs, seminars and keynote speeches. Working with leaders and executives Panache Career Strategies, LLC will support their executive presence goals in communications and gravitas.

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Executive Presence-Cultural Spotlight: 6 Keys to Understanding German Culture for Better Relationships

by Terri Williams

The United States Gross Domestic Product (GDP) exceeds $16 trillion dollars.  From a cultural perspective there are two amazing data points:  first, 95% of US customers reside outside of its borders; which has an economic impact of more than $15 trillion dollars.  Second, US minority demographics are approaching 40%, which potentially affects 150 million citizens, residents, and employees.  In this light we observe German culture in observance of its formation of 8 Jun 1815.

Germany

Germany Formation

  • Holy Roman Empire 2 February 962
  • German Confederation 8 June 1815
  • Unification 18 January 1871
  • Federal Republic 23 May 1949
  • Reunification 3 October 1990

 

EXECUTIVE PRESENCE PERSPECTIVES

Given demographics shifts, strengthening relationships with customers, peers, and employees of of all cultures is imperative.  Cultural patterns are learned and passed along by way of communication during the course of our socialization, which contributes to our behavior and our perceptions.  Social Psychologist Gerard Hendrik Hofstede identified a number of deep drivers of German culture relative to other world cultures. Here are six of Hofstedes’s  drivers that I feel provide a foundation for interpersonal engagement:

  1. Germany is not surprisingly among the lower power distant countries.  Highly decentralized and supported by a strong middle class, and co-determination rights are comparatively extensive and have to be taken into account by the management. A direct and participative communication and meeting style is common, control is disliked and leadership is challenged to show expertise and best accepted when it’s based on it.
  2. The German society is a truly individualistic one. Small families with a focus on the parent-children relationship rather than aunts and uncles are most common. There is a strong belief in the ideal of self actualization.  Loyalty is based on personal preferences for people as well as a sense of duty and responsibility. This is defined by the contract between the employer and the employee. Communication is among the most direct in the world following the ideal to be “honest, even if it hurts” – and by this giving the counterpart a fair chance to learn from mistakes.
  3. Germany is considered a masculine society. Performance is highly valued and early required as the school system separates children into different types of schools at the age of ten. People rather “live in order to work” and draw a lot of self-esteem from their tasks. Managers are expected to be decisive and assertive. Status is often shown, especially by cars, watches and technical devices.
  4. Germany is among the uncertainty avoidant countries, so there is a slight preference for uncertainty avoidance. In line with the philosophical heritage of Kant, Hegel and Fichte there is a strong preference for deductive rather than inductive approaches, be it in thinking, presenting or planning: the systematic overview has to be given in order to proceed. This is also reflected by the law system. Details are equally important to create certainty that a certain topic or project is well-thought-out. In combination with their low Power Distance, where the certainty for own decisions is not covered by the larger responsibility of the boss, Germans prefer to compensate for their higher uncertainty by strongly relying on expertise.
  5. Germany is a pragmatic country. In societies with a pragmatic orientation, people believe that truth depends very much on situation, context and time. They show an ability to adapt traditions easily to changed conditions, a strong propensity to save and invest, thriftiness, and perseverance in achieving results.
  6. German culture is restrained in nature. Societies with a low score in this dimension have a tendency to cynicism and pessimism. Also, in contrast to indulgent societies, restrained societies do not put much emphasis on leisure time and control the gratification of their desires. People with this orientation have the perception that their actions are restrained by social norms and feel that indulging themselves is somewhat wrong.
Slide1

Source: The Hofstede Center


panache-logoTerri L. Williams is an executive presence expert specializing in communications, gravitas, and appearance. She is a seasoned professional with more than 25 years of specialized experience in human resource management and corporate protocol. Terri is also a veteran of the United States Army, with service in domestic and international assignments. As the President and Founder of Panache Career Strategies, LLC, Terri L. Williams leads Executive Presence training programs and seminars that can help you to improve your skills. A leader in facilitating the “gold standard” in a wide range of services focused on solutions for individual, group, customized programs, seminars and keynote speeches. Working with leaders and executives Panache Career Strategies, LLC will support their executive presence goals in communications and gravitas.

©Copyright 2015 Panache Career Strategies, LLC

Free Resources

Virtual Courses. Learn the fundamental importance of Professional and Executive presence.

Our Weekly Blog. Receive weekly insights and useful tips on Executive Presence and professional image on our blog

Executive Presence Quiz. Test your executive presence knowledge with this fun and fast quiz. Take the quiz here.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
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