While teaching cross-cultural leadership at The Fuqua School of Business at Duke University, I used “The Culture Map” by Erin Meyer at INSEAD as one of our core books. This book lays out a framework for navigating professional situations when working with people from different cultures.
And while it is definitely useful for interactions with people from different countries, I have also found the frameworks in Meyer’s book to be helpful in my work with people from the US as well as my in own efforts to gain self-awareness.
The dimensions and continua in “The Culture Map” include:
Communications styles, which can go from very verbal, direct, and active to very indirect with lots of non-verbal cues. Some of my US colleagues are very direct in their communications styles while others beat around the bush and choose their words more carefully or use gestures and facial expressions rather than words to communicate with me. Understanding how each of my team members communicates helps me keep my radar up for when they’re telling me something important – with words or non-verbally.
Evaluation styles can range from direct to indirect, especially when delivering negative feedback. In a performance review, some people will come in and declare, “That project was a disaster!” or “Your performance this year was really not great.” Some people will be appalled by this and feel devastated, while others won’t even hear the message that things aren’t good unless this level of directness is used. Others will be much more indirect in communicating negative feedback, saying something like, “The business performance was adequate but not as expected.” If the two people in this conversation come from different ends of the evaluation spectrum, one may understand that they clearly communicated that expectations weren’t met while the other person may understand that their personal performance was fine even though the overall business tanked.
Styles of Leadership
Styles of leadership, which can range from very egalitarian to super hierarchical. Some leaders seem to want to be buddies with all of their team members while others seem to want to maintain a distance and ensure that hierarchy and levels are understood. Understanding the style of leadership of your leader as well as the style expected by team members can help you navigate situations that can be confusing when not everyone is on the same page or understanding working styles in the same way.
Decision-making, which can range from requiring consensus to top-down decision-making. Some company cultures require consensus across multiple parts of the organization before moving forward, while others leave the decision to one, very senior person. If it is unclear how decisions get made (and who has power to make decisions and who they need to be conferring with in that process), organizational chaos can ensue, with one person declaring a decision has been made but others who were not consulted find that decision illegitimate. Lots of time and organizational energy can get wasted here if you don’t get this clear.
Developing trust, which can be based more on tasks (ie doing what you said you’d do) or on relationships (ie getting to know each other slowly). This one fascinates me because some people are very task-based and they work together on projects then never speak again after the project is over, while others work together, develop a relationship, and maintain that relationship for years, whether they are still working together or not. This dimension is important because when forming a new team, it is key to understand how the team members develop trust and taking the time to develop that trust as it will reduce friction in the team.
Disagreement styles, which can range from super confrontational to super conflict-avoidant. I’ve seen team members blow up with anger, which causes many teammates to recoil. I’ve seen other team members so concerned with creating conflict that they’ll take on extra work and gloss over serious issues in order to maintain harmony. Establishing expected and accepted disagreement styles is key for a team’s ability to function.
Scheduling styles, from linear time (think Germans) to flexible time (think Latins). People who are living in linear time have their schedules dictated by Outlook and are always on time. They can become quite frustrated when working with people who live in flexible time, who tend to prioritize finishing what they’re working on or nurturing relationships more than they prioritize being on time according to their Outlook calendar. Talking about expectations and understanding who on your team may be viewing time differently than others can reduce inefficiency and conflict across teammates.
You can read a great summary of The Culture Map here.
I have noticed that with my US colleagues and bosses, people fall across the spectrum of these dimensions. I find using The Culture Map’s assessment tools with myself and my teammates can help us understand our natural styles and preferences for things like communicating and decision-making. It can also help us work better together, avoiding misunderstandings and helping us be more effective together.
I encourage you to read the book and also take the assessment for yourself to understand your own styles and preferences, and then I encourage you to have your colleagues and teammates take the quiz too so that you can have a great conversation about how to work together more effectively.
Being Gutsy means understanding the environment you’re in and making choices about how to navigate it based on your own style and preferences and goals. Use “The Culture Map” to help you get informed so you can make some great decisions!
Get the book here… https://www.erinmeyer.com/book/
And take the assessment here… https://www.erinmeyer.com/tools/