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Cross-Cultural Business Experiences

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1. The topic of this module is cross-cultural issues and understanding. Given this, please share some of the details of a cross-cultural experience you have had (it might be simply visiting a different portion of your own country...as most national cultures are not entirely homogeneous). What 'lessons' did you personally learn from this experience? And, what might you do differently in any future cross-cultural experiences?

2. In managing others, human perception, attitudes and motivation are of keen importance. One important OB issue spanning these dimensions is the concept of 'perceived fairness' in the workplace.

Fairness is such a common phenomenon in organizations that most leaders/ managers typically give it little thought. If an employee says the vacation/ leave, or other policy isn't fair, he or she might get some attention. Unfortunately, some leaders/ managers fail to realize that unfairness may cause overall performance to suffer and can even have severe economic consequences. Just because you are not paying attention doesn't mean that unfairness isn't making a big difference to your organization's product/ performance quality, mission readiness or completion, customer service and/ or the bottom line.

Consider the real life effects of perceived unfairness: For twenty years Charlie, a baggage handler, was an asset to his airline. Callous rule changes and harsh supervisory treatment, however, led him to covertly retaliate. For months, he carefully 'evened the score' by tearing off a few baggage tags each shift. Each missing tag caused the airline both service headaches and lost dollars (at the time, $55 per bag on average).

As well, reflect on the military supervisor who appeared to have chosen 'Attilla the Hun' as a role model.
Upset with what they perceived as a never-ending stream of oppressive behavior, two technicians took a number of particularly expensive silver-lined spare radar batteries and buried them in the boonies. They almost immediately rotated stateside, leaving the responsible supervisor to account for (and evidently, also at least partially pay for) these items upon his later rotation date.

While such examples may seem a little extreme, more subtle responses may abound; please consider:
* Do you think this sort of behavior might be somewhat widespread in organizations?
* Have you seen, or reliably heard of, such behavior? If so, please cite an example.
And, what kind of costs/ losses ($ and otherwise) might be associated with your example?
* Do leaders/ managers you know pay much attention to this notion of perceived fairness?

3. As a leader/ manager, one circumstance you may encounter is the necessity to integrate or merge two organizational units. This can be a very stressful period where, if not properly managed, a good deal of tension and/ or conflict can arise...often leading to decreased organizational performance. Consider that seniors have dictated that your, and another manager's, units must merge over a period of the next three months. You are to be the leader of the newly merged group, though the previous manager will remain on staff. Your new boss-to-be has asked you to immediately submit a merger plan.
* What are the arrays of issues/ challenges/ opportunities you face?
* What are the key elements of your plan?
* If you have previously been involved in an actual unit merger, please feel free to share the organizational dynamics you experienced as well as any lessons learned.

4. A vital element of leadership is the notion of increased situational awareness. A leader must be a keen observer of her/ his work environments. This allows for a better range of effective action to best accomplish the mission or other desired outcomes. Beyond awareness, it is useful to have an increasingly larger array of situational analysis 'frameworks' in your head...into which to quickly plug your information...in order to help make better sense of what you are observing (or otherwise becoming aware of). The more frameworks you integrate into your personal perspectives and later situational analyses, the more you can understand the REAL (versus initially apparent) issues.

Expanded personal awareness and diagnostic frameworks helps you avoid over simplifying a complex situation, then committing the dreaded 'ready, shoot, aim' phenomenon!

As an example, one way to look at a situation is to see events as part of a 'connected system.' Thus, if something happens in one part of a 'system,' it can likely affect something somewhere else. This means you might want to look further than the immediate setting to see what is causing an issue...and, just as importantly, what might be the 'unintended consequences' of a chosen solution in other parts of the system. Another useful 'analysis model' is to first sort out the details of what might be an 'ideal' solution/ result to be accomplished (establishing a 'like it to be' picture). Then go back and review the issue as it stands now (developing the 'as is' picture). The difference between the two is a 'gap' or 'discrepancy' for which you can plan remedial steps (closing the gap).
• In brief, highlight the essential details of a leadership/ management/ supervisory problem, challenge or opportunity you have had in the past...or perhaps are currently facing.
• List any assumptions or analyses frameworks you then used...or are now using (or forgot to consider).
• Note the results...and comment on how aware you felt you were/ are of all the situation issues.

5. Organizational structure, norms, values, culture, etc. all have an impact on a leader's success. Consider the new or advancing leader. As such, we are expected to learn how to effectively perform all of the important administrative and professional/ technical tasks. In addition, we need to master the necessary social skills associated with early effectiveness in our new position. Below are ten 'socio-political' categories which may influence a transitioning leader's early (and enduring) effectiveness. These include, in no particular order, the ability to:
• enter into an established leader/ employee 'network.'
• sense, as well as use, appropriate communication and influence behaviors.
• sense and appropriately act on keen organizational norms.
• become aware of, and sensitively interact with, organizational 'blockers' and 'enablers.'
• build political bridges by identifying & relating to key formal/ informal power sources.
• become known as a 'go-to/ can-do' individual.
• be perceived as a 'team player.'
• sense key organizational issues upon which to create early vision, initiatives and value.
• identify & appropriately respond to the requirements of superiors-peers-subordinates.
• be perceived as having organizationally appropriate ethics, values and beliefs.

Please note that these are behavioral skill categories, not actual behaviors. You likely use many of the actual behaviors (such as 'interpersonal communication') within each every day. Consider:
* In your view, how important is your early effort in a new leadership role to your enduring success in the job?
* Does this list of 'social/ political skill' categories match your sense of what is most required to help ensure a leader's early and enduring success in a new role/ position? What might you add or subtract here to help insure the most effective transition into a new job?
* Presuming you already have practiced some or all of these ten items, how did you learn to do so?

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1. One cross-cultural experience that I had involved working alongside Hispanic individuals on a summer construction job during my college years while visiting my uncle in New York City. This qualifies as a cross-cultural experience due to the fact that I am from North Carolina in the American South, and New York is in the northern part of the country. This was a very interesting cross-cultural experience due to the fact that first and foremost I gained a great deal of insight and knowledge about the Spanish language. Although I have taken two years of Spanish in high school, I learned a different dialects of Spanish as well as some of the commonly used terms that aren't focused on in an academic Spanish curriculum. In addition I learned that these individuals have a strong family unit orientation, which means that they believe in mutual support among an extended family unit. In addition, I learned that there is a vast difference between Hispanic individuals of Mexican descent and those individuals of Puerto Rican descent. Each of these cultures are unique although they share a common language. I learned that even the Spanish that is spoken by these two Hispanic groups differ greatly, which surprisingly made it difficult for them to understand each other in some instances. I also learned that there are tremendous cultural differences between Spanish-speaking individuals of Mexican descent, those of Caribbean descent, and those of Latin and South American descent. During this trip it was interesting to note that the customs and mannerisms of those in the northeastern part of the United States differ greatly from those in the Southeastern part of the ...