People skills vital universally
Understand people rather than culture to get ahead, Cara Jenkin reports
BUSINESS leaders need people skills rather than in-depth knowledge of culture and language to succeed in the global marketplace.
A new study by workplace solutions provider Right Management reveals there are six essential competencies that leaders require to operate with their counterparts, clients and/ or staff in other countries – all of which deal with interpersonal skills. The Leading across cultures in the Human Age study advises leaders that they need to be able to build and maintain trusting relationships, comfortably socialise with new people in unfamiliar social situations, demonstrate a genuine interest in other people and enjoy new social challenges to be successful.
It also recommends that workers be able to see through any vagueness and uncertainty in their or others’ understanding of a situation and avoid becoming frustrated when figuring out how business is done in other cultures.
Its findings are supported by the experience of executives at Australia’s largest toy company, Moose Enterprise, which exports to 80 countries.
Co-chief executive Paul Solomon says being adaptable and flexible in differing business markets, cultures and environments is more important than having complete knowledge of their culture.
‘‘ You don’t need to have any foreign language skills, you need people skills. That’s very important,’’ he says.
‘‘ There’s always change going on around the world and you need to adapt to that. ‘‘ That’s part and parcel in doing export. (For example) we’re in Kazakhstan, Argentina, North America, so dealing with completely different cultures and people skills are absolutely critical.
‘‘ You can’t understand the full detail. You’ve got to be persistent with them so you can extract information from them and work together with them to maximise business.’’
He says leaders need to see the big picture and be driven and lead by example. ‘‘ Common sense is always good,’’ he says. ‘‘ It’s a basic skill that a lot of people don’t have.’’
Leaders also need to know how to motivate and inspire as initiatives and emotions translate across cultural boundaries.