Working with colleagues from diverse cultural backgrounds can bring unique perspectives and communication challenges. Active listening is crucial in overcoming these obstacles. Here are eight techniques for improving active listening.
Seeking Feedback to Enhance Cultural Agility
Client: In a recent project, I provided direct feedback to a team member, assuming they would appreciate my candor. However, they seemed offended, and I realized afterward that my directness might not have been culturally appropriate.
Coach: How adapting your communication style might influence collaboration?
Client: I believe being more mindful of their cultural background and adapting my feedback approach accordingly would have fostered a more constructive and respectful dialogue. I should have taken their cultural expectations into account.
Coach: How will you do that?
Client: I’m committed to learning more about cultural communication styles and norms. I’ll engage in cross-cultural training.
Coach: Ok. And in the short term?
Client: I guess I could ask for feedback from this team member.
Seeking feedback is an effective technique to promote Cultural Agility in a diverse workplace. However, as an intercultural coach, I have many times observed that this can be a challenging practice.
In our series on intercultural coaching, we have already seen how the latter builds on self-awareness. In this post, we will delve into how intercultural coaching can help you gain cultural insights by seeking feedback. Contrary to what I do during a coaching session, I will provide practical steps for executing it effectively.
1. Three reasons to seek feedback in an intercultural workplace
#1 – Gain Cultural Insights:
Gathering feedback from colleagues with various cultural backgrounds can offer valuable insights into different perspectives, communication styles, and norms. This helps understand and better appreciate the cultural nuances that influence, most often unconsciously, professional interactions.
#2 – Enhance Intercultural Communication:
Feedback is a bridge for improving intercultural communication. By actively seeking feedback, you can identify potential gaps in understanding, adjust your communication style, and build stronger connections with colleagues from different cultures.
#3 – Build Trust and Collaboration:
Seeking feedback demonstrates a genuine interest in learning from others. It creates trust, respect, and collaborative culture where everyone’s opinions and experiences are valued. By actively engaging in feedback discussions, you foster an inclusive environment where colleagues can share their thoughts openly and contribute to the organization’s mission.
Sounds straightforward enough, right? But how do we actually go about asking for feedback?
2. Eight steps to seeking feedback in an intercultural workplace
Step 1 - Foster Psychological Safety
Create a reliable atmosphere that encourages the development of colleagues instead of pointing fingers and welcomes diverse perspectives instead of suppressing them. During meetings and casual conversations, demonstrate a genuine interest in the experiences and perspectives of others. In short, be curious and supportive.
Step 2 - Be Open-minded and Culturally Sensitive
Approach feedback with an open mind, recognizing that cultural differences may impact how feedback is given and received. Embrace a growth mindset, viewing feedback as an opportunity for personal and professional development. Keep in mind this question: What can I learn here?
Step 3 - Seek Feedback in a Timely Manner
To ensure accuracy and relevance, requesting feedback promptly after a specific event or interaction is best. This will help colleagues remember details and provide more specific feedback.
In our opening dialogue, the client may be encouraged to seek feedback as soon as possible from their colleague regarding their last meeting and their impression of being offensive. The client can express their feelings sincerely and share their positive intentions. Most importantly, they can inquire about how their colleague views feedback in their culture and how they would like such a conversation to proceed in the future.
Step 4 - Be Specific in your Request
Put yourself in the shoes of a project manager working in an intercultural team. A generic question, “How did you find the last meeting?” might lead to vague responses. Instead, be specific in your feedback request.
Email your team members, outlining the specific areas you would like feedback on.
Subject: Seeking Feedback – Virtual Meeting on [Project X]
I hope this email finds you well. I am seeking your valuable feedback on our virtual meeting yesterday regarding [Project X]. Your input will be instrumental in helping us enhance our future interactions and collaborations as an intercultural team.
Specifically, I would appreciate your insights on those two points:
- Participation and Inclusivity: Were you encouraged to share your thoughts during the meeting? Were there any cultural factors that either facilitated or hindered active participation?
- Decision-Making Process: How did you perceive the decision-making process during the meeting? Were there any cultural perspectives that influenced the outcomes?
Please feel free to suggest any improvement and respond via email or set up a one-on-one call if you prefer. Your feedback is invaluable, and I genuinely appreciate your time and openness.
Being specific in your feedback request helps your colleagues give more insightful and actionable feedback. Considering cultural differences also shows your commitment to fostering Cultural Agility within the team.
You might also find insights and reflexive activities in our e-book.
Navigating Cultural Diversity
5 Steps to Enhancing your Inclusive Leadership
Step 5 - Ask Thoughtful Questions
Pose open-ended questions that invite colleagues to share their perspectives and experiences.
Examples include: “How do you perceive my communication style in our interactions?”,
“What suggestions do you have for improving collaboration across different cultural backgrounds?”
or “Are there any communication styles or approaches that you find particularly effective in facilitating decision-making processes and would suit your cultural preferences?”
Step 6 - Practice Active Listening
Here comes a challenging step because feedback might trigger an emotional response. When receiving feedback, listen attentively and non-defensively.
To handle feedback well, it’s important to:
- recognize that feedback is about specific behaviors or actions, not about your worth as an individual,
- seek to understand the underlying perspectives and experiences shared by your colleagues,
- reflect on the feedback and ask clarifying questions to ensure a comprehensive understanding.
Step 7 - Express Gratitude and Follow-up
Show appreciation for the feedback received, regardless of whether it is positive or constructive. Express your gratitude and let colleagues know how their feedback has been helpful. Again be as specific as possible.
Follow up with them to share how you have taken their feedback into account and any actions you have taken. This will foster the relationship.
Step 8 - Continuously Learn and Adapt
To enhance your intercultural communication skills and promote inclusivity within your team, it’s crucial to incorporate feedback-seeking into your routine. Regularly initiate a meta-conversation about the way the team supports Cultural Diversity.
You can ask such a question: “How can we, as a team, create an inclusive environment that respects and integrates different perspectives on the decision-making process / time management / disagreement management…?”
Coach: Great! How feedback seeking will impact your intercultural conversations?
Client: I believe it will lead to stronger relationships, better collaboration, and a deeper appreciation for diverse perspectives. I am excited about creating an inclusive environment where everyone feels valued and heard.
As an intercultural coach, I encourage you to cultivate this mindset. As several cultures coexist in most workplaces, know how to solicit feedback with ease to learn and thus develop your Cultural Agility.
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