Intercultural workplaces – East and West

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Today’s guest blog is from Prabhjit Kaur, a Global HR Professional, Founder of KaurSkills, talks about her thoughts on intercultural workplaces from East to West!

I am pleased to be blogging for Your HR Buddy!!. There is so much we could all write about, but the aim for our partnership is to focus on successful cross-cultural workplaces. We hope to engage, share knowledge and encourage some inspiring discussion on creating impactful, high performance teams that is inclusive, engaging and energetic. This starts with some basics.

There is a lot online, about HR needing to reflect on intercultural competencies as businesses progress and expand operations globally.

As founder of KaurSkills, I am working across 2 very distinct and culturally diverse countries – the UK and India. Some of my knowledge has also been shared beyond: South Asia and the West. So for my initial blog with Nisha, I will focus on some current reading and a little of my professional thoughts ….

Global Leadership: Communication, themes and traits…

Having worked, across 4 countries in the UK, I am fully aware of the need of effective communication in engagement, driving projects with clear governance, policy implementation and importance of collective action. You might think similar principles would apply going global. Yes and no. Where this is similar; is effectively summarized by Right Management. Here are some of the competencies leaders require; that specifically support communications; and essential to work effectively globally

In being:

  • Politically Astute
  • Inspiring Others & Maintaining Leadership Responsibility
  • Initiative to Produce Appropriate Change
  • Directing, Delegating and Establishing Monitoring Systems
  • Collaborative

Where it will differ; changes with culture and context. An interesting update by a well known Author, Shelle Rose Charvet shared some insight on ‘The Intercultural Connection Theory’.

 ‘1. Each culture has a topic of conversation, to be discussed in a particular number of sentences or duration in time for the precise purpose of connecting rather that communicating specific information. To connect one needs to match the topic and required duration of conversation.

 2. Each culture has a precise “order of business” in their places of work wherein a specific number of minutes is taken for greeting, working, informal chit chat, breaks), etc., in a particular order. This order of business ensures that a personal connection will take place.

From a HR perspective, there are some givens and some assurances we must give to support induction, employability, and know-how share; when leading #skills acquisition and global #talent recruitment drives.


An inclusive culture that embraces and adapts; is a pre-requisite to workforce planning and planned recruitment drives. An excellent article I read recently, shares just this and changing workplace dynamics, for performance and collective productivity via @GigaOm:

Simple workplace measures such as team meetings hosted by different experts, icebreakers, discussion workplace forums, focus areas, team play, creativity techniques (with a clear purpose!), meeting facilitation that champions’ diversity and input are all great ways to create inclusive workplace culture. You must have heard this quote ‘We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.Epictetus’. Nothing can be truer when exploring and establishing great leadership traits. There is so much information that is unsaid, unstated or unstructured; that can create impact in a positive way – if only we encourage inclusive discussion and diversity. Perspectives are key to growth – both from leadership, employee and organisation perspectives. Hone this skill and you are well on your way to creating a great workplace.


Leaders should ensure that culture, personal development and work activities are relevant, meaningful and supportive of #talent and #skills. Equally, ensure that there is common purpose that is understood and which informs actions; including an understanding of company values and work ethics.

An excellent white paper download to support front line managers is shared via Dale Carnegie. How often do we manage situations in crisis or reactive mode? What is key to gain engagement and team effort? Ensuring communications are clear, purposeful and context specific is another key leadership people skill. How often though do we look back at our management style and assess our own communication method or style? Probably not enough. At the very least, self-evaluation becomes a priority only when things go wrong. Context drives performance in much the same way as the right fuel for a car. If our communication doesn’t convey meaningful information either by sharing an understanding of why we are doing a specific task or activity or why it is relevant, then we haven’t engaged the individual nor created connection.


Create teams that work across professional silos and corporate functions, for projected activity. Ensure team meetings are inclusive, carefully facilitated and encourage debate, discussion and inspiration. Diversity of opinion and talent should energize the room, ideas and actions that follow.

A good facilitator will ensure that challenges are shared, and opportunities are created as a collective. A good leader will also ensure language differences, meaning and perspectives are shared and understood. What is presumed offensive or untoward in one cultural context, may not be in another. Skills and talent aside; individuals must be able to connect and enjoy working with each other, if they are to work above and beyond their achievements, and successful attributes. The difficulty arises when time and deadlines restricts open discussion. But managers and leaders must make time to encourage this. You won’t need to implement role storming  or the reframing matrix if you have truly diverse teamwork.


Ensure that HR practices are fully compliant, and supportive of diverse leadership development (Employability). This also means managers listen, contribute and support diversity of opinion; understanding different work ethics and motivators, and professional development needs.

The buck certainly stops with you! So does successful or not so successful outcomes. A project manager must make sure everything is completed to deadlines and quality; in a systematic way. The project board ensures money is well spent, risks managed and timescales are adhered to. This is in no way different to the context of accountability. Not understanding your workforce needs, means you have not connected and you are not in the know – triggers, reasoning, context or motivators. That leads to a very vulnerable position from your leadership style to organisation perspective. There are competitors out there who are ensuring diversity works – business results and annual reports expose achievements and hidden truths.


There is only one way! That is one of openness and transparency – embrace and have empathy. Listen; understand differences in opinions and working styles. Encourage as leaders, with the ultimate responsibility for developing high performance culture and teams. This also means ensuring there is trust in the team. An excellent management technique is the Johari Window.

In applying Shelle Rose Charvet’s ‘The Intercultural Connection Theory’, we can share the following simple summary:

The need for ‘leadership mindfulness’ comes to mind when piecing all this information together. To be effective, either when recruiting an individual from the East to West or West to East; or even working globally, the key to leadership success is in creating and sharing clearly the ‘purpose’; and to inspire initiative and collaboration with everyone you work with – that includes those you are not responsible for. To be flexible in your approach, and yet being assertive and focused in your vision i.e. when milestones missed, are not to be tolerated. To create the perfect team, means everyone understands the need for development as individuals and teams collectively. The need to be authentic and inclusive; and the need to maintain open cultures – energized and creatively inspired, for innovation and productivity.

I welcome views and professional feedback, from individuals working globally – East and West.

Prabhjit kaurPrabhjit Kaur (CMgr MCMI | AssocCIPD | MBA(Open) is the Founder of KaurSkills (India and UK) and World Skills Leadership Café. She is also a Skills Strategist | Workforce Transformation | Educational Leadership & Policy Consultant. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Facebook & on twitter at @Prabhjit_Kaur.

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