The Cultural Synergist - Issue 17 June 2009

Welcome to The Cultural Synergist

Hi ,

Welcome to the Cultural Synergies June 2009 newsletter.

Kind regards

The Cultural Synergies Team
June 2009

Working Together

Not so long ago I was invited to a barbeque where I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen for a long while. 


My friends’ work history has included over 20 years in the military and some time in the corporate world.  I have known him for several years and have always found his style of communication to be direct, forthright and straight to the point. 


Recently he applied for a senior role in a Singaporean owned multinational company. Unfortunately, he was unsuccessful in his application but he did walk away from the experience armed with some great feedback and an opportunity to contemplate how he might do things differently in his next interview.  One of the key ‘take homes’ for him was the observations and remarks he received from the recruitment consultant.


The position that my friend was applying for required him to liaise closely with the Singaporean executive team.  The comments that my friend accepted gratefully (or maybe not) in his debrief were that his ‘style’ would be considered too abrasive and direct for the environment.


There were three points from the conversation that I later reflected on.  One was the great observations and comments that the recruitment person provided and the other was how the information was received and utilised by my friend.  Critical feedback is never easy to give or receive, there is a talent, dexterity - call it what you will, to it.  It is important to develop these skills because they provide us with opportunities to improve, develop, assess and reassess what can make us successful and unsuccessful.  Knowing how to give and receive any type of feedback, whether it be positive or negative, that is culturally appropriate and sensitive is critical when working globally.


The third point that I mused over was the shift that has taken place in recent years.  In the past Cultural Synergies has developed and run many programs to assist ‘other’ cultures in understanding the western multinational (MNC) culture and programs such as developing Asian talent and programs for non-western people to help them work more successfully within the Western MNC’s. 


The world is now seeing a significant shift, whereby the number of Asian companies buying into previously western owned companies has and continues to increase at a rate that requires us to take a moment and consider.  There is now a genuine requirement to educate Westerners to understand and work more effectively within Asian multinational cultures. We are now at the stage (and have been for some time) where Western leaders are being managed by Asian executives and managers and working predominantly in Asian environments.


These organisations and the people that work within them need to be culturally agile and consider the benefits of cultural awareness from different another angle.  This will enable skilling, which will allow for greater understanding, support and improved resilience.  Cultural agility facilitates organizations and individuals to increase their behavioural repertoire as was deemed necessary for my friend.


 Recommended Book

The Asian Mind Game: A Westerner’s Survival Manual, by Chin-Ning Chu, Stealth Productions (1995).


You may notice that this is not a recent book but one that came to mind and is relevant to this months’ article.  I have recommended this over the years to Western clients who have needed to improve their skills and understanding of Asian cultures.   Chu’s approach is refreshing; she offers readers an instructive, direct and candid insight to the cultural differences and strategies that can bridge the cultural gaps.


Chu talks about the inner secrets of the Asian psyche that influence behaviour in business, politics and lifestyle.  Her purpose of the book is to help Westerners understand Asians from the ‘inside out rather than the outside in’.   


The Asian Mind Game is not a large book and the way that the chapters are structured makes it easy to go straight to the relevant chapters if you don’t want to read the book in full.




Our latest discussion paper – ‘Generational Diversity in Today’s Workplace’. We ask why does generational diversity require our attention?  How can we leverage on the diversity that exists in our workplaces? Cultural Synergies have developed a Generational Mirror to improve generational understandings within the context of leadership, teamwork and communication between the generations.  To find out more go to:

Last month I did an Interview with Cornelius Fichtner at ‘The Project Management Podcast’ on Cultural Awareness.  You can hear it at Episode 118 ‘Cultural Awareness and Cultural Intelligence’.



'Raising Your Cultural IQ - New DVD and CD

'Raising Your Cultural IQ' explores the issues around culture, the challenges that culture can pose and provides some great strategies on how to leverage on cultural differences and similarities.

'The Invisible Elephant - Exploring Cultural Awareness', 2nd Edition by Tom Verghese

Many aspects of culture are invisible, yet culture has an enormous impact on our lives. Like an Invisible Elephant, if ignored these aspects can lead to misunderstanding, stress and conflict. Alternatively, if attention is given to the Invisible Elephant, it can enhance productivity, improve teamwork and create more joy in our lives.

Book testimonial by Asma Ghabshi, Learning And Development Manager, Shell Oman: 

"The Invisible Elephant made my perspective of my national culture in comparison to my personal culture more visible. It has given me a deep insight into dealing with people of different cultural backgrounds."

'Pillars of Growth - Strategies for Leading Sustainable Growth' - Book by Tom Verghese, Kerry Larkan, Steven Howard and Brad Tonini

Written with the business leaders and entrepreneurs of Asia in mind, 'Pillars of Growth' provides a road map to assist you in thinking through four critical concerns that impact the sustainable growth of every business.

Visit our store at


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