Effective cross-cultural leadership and management require what is known as the “pivot factor.” 

What is a pivot?

Pivot – a dance step in which the dancer suddenly turns to face the opposite direction.

Pivot

Pivoting in intercultural management

The need to adapt your leadership style when working with different cultures.

You can think of it like this: each direction you turn in, you may encounter differences in terms of people’s cultural values, so you must be ready to apply different techniques to manage and lead people effectively.

In intercultural teams, there may be differences in:

  • Communication style
  • Work ethic
  • Conflict resolution style
  • Feedback style
  • The use of time
  • Motivating factors
  • Stressors
  • and many more aspects

Pivoting, in terms of intercultural management, may mean adjusting your communication style, the way you motivate your team, or even the way you resolve conflict–to achieve the desired results. 

After all, managing a team of people from different cultures is never “one size fits all.” Attitudes, philosophies and behaviors may not affect everyone in the same way, and may even be counterproductive.

Tip: Managing a team of people from different cultures is never “one size fits all.”

–> Improve your intercultural management skills

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For example, the extremely direct and blunt communication style of American managers may not be appreciated in a culture which values indirect communication and diplomacy, like Japan.

We all come with our own cultural conditioning, and our own perceptions of the right way and the best way. However, professionals in leadership positions abroad often make a terrible mistake. 

They apply the same management and leadership techniques they use in their home country, without even thinking about adapting to the host culture’s values and styles.

#1 Mistake:

Leaders abroad often apply the same management and leadership techniques they use in their home country, without even thinking about adapting to the host culture’s values and styles.

The need to “pivot’ in multicultural management was first explained in the article “The Attributes of an Effective Global Leader” by Sylvia Ann Hewlett. (Harvard Business Review, October 13, 2016). In the article, Hewlett explains how the majority of US and UK leaders interviewed maintained that demonstrating authority was the best way to win respect – the “vertical pivot.”

Majority of leaders in Brazil, China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, and Turkey said: 

The best way to win respect is by showing emotional intelligence – the “horizontal pivot.”

Are you applying the pivot factor in your leadership style for your multicultural team?

While the cultural gap is a growing reality in many organizations around the world, the pivot factor can spur corporate growth and cultural transformation when properly applied.

–> Improve your staff’s intercultural skills with us

We know that every company is unique, which is why we offer customized training solutions that are tailored to your specific needs. Our team can provide your company with a bespoke solution that includes online, face-to-face, or hybrid training and coaching. Remember, cross-cultural training is essential for managers of multicultural teams or those on expat assignments. With the appropriate preparation, managers can succeed in working through complex challenges in today’s global workforce.

Cheryl Obal

Cheryl Obal

Founder of Cheryl Obal & Associates

Cheryl Obal & Associates is a cross-cultural training and consulting company that helps businesses improve their cross-cultural competence.

Subscribe to my YouTube Channel to get more information about expat life, intercultural skills, and business abroad.

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