“We may have different religions, different languages, different colored skin, but we all belong to One Human Race.”
~ Kofi Annan
In a world of cross-cultural differences and diversity, how can we influence each other to build more productive relationships and achieve better results?
One participant who attended the Positive Power & Influence® Program recently wrote “I have learned that to influence people is not easy, but if we use the right Influence Style in the right situation, we can achieve our influence objective. Thanks for that!”
Why is influencing people not easy? Recently, I came across Yang Liu’s book, East Meets West. Her visual understanding illustrates the cultural differences between Western and Eastern cultures. Not everyone thinks the same. Our thinking, as well as our spoken, written, and body language may send mixed signals to the receiver.
Let me share some pictograms from Yang Liu’s book, East Meets West* (Blue = Western and Red = Asian).
1. Dealing with Problems
In ancient China, there was a belief that no one wanted to be the bearer of bad news to the emperor lest his head got chopped off! This notion has permeated the Asian culture for centuries, resulting in Asians having the tendency to avoid conflict and confrontation when dealing with problems. Therefore, it is important that all parties involved take the time to understand and clearly define the problem, before jumping to solutions and actions to solve it. This is where the Bridging Style with the Behaviors of Involving, Listening, and Disclosing would give all parties a better understanding of the root of the problem before determining the actions to resolve it. It is also important to take into consideration how individuals accept or avoid uncertainty and risk.
I had the privilege of teaching project managers how to disclose, find common ground, persuade, and assert for early support, and be proactive in applying influence throughout the Initiating, Planning, Executing, Controlling, and Closing phases of project management.
2. Perspective of the Boss
In Asia, there is more emphasis on positional power in a hierarchical organization, which means that the boss makes the final decision. It is crucial for the staff to receive approval from the boss. As it is important to influence the ‘right’ person and stakeholders at the top, the body language, gesture of respect, and recognition toward the most senior person in meetings is critical. When presenting your name card in Asia, it should be done with two hands to the most senior person first. If someone does not have positional power, it is still possible for them to achieve their objectives by using the most effective Influence Action Plan for the situation.
When I first met the Senior Executive of the largest bank in Singapore, I realized from the beginning who was in control of the meeting. There was a lot of ‘Push’ and reference to the positional power of the executive in this organization. My objective was to find a way to collaborate with this client, so I used more of the Influence Pull Energy, Styles, and Behaviors during our discussions. Being flexible and using appropriate influence styles enabled me to gain the trust of the executive, which further led to a very productive partnership and collaboration with this client.
In Asia, it is not just what you know but who you know that is very important! It is critical to get connected to as many people as possible. Several years ago, I flew to Hong Kong to manage a project. When I arrived at the office, the project manager did not provide the resources I needed, although he had promised to have them available. On top of it, he could not be contacted. Desperate, and not knowing anyone in the department, I contacted Dennis who is the country manager and whom I knew very well from previous projects. Fortunately, Dennis was in his office. After explaining my situation, he told me not to worry and arranged all the resources within two hours!
I had no positional power over the country manager, but I had personal power through networking. The above anecdote shows how important it is to grow our network as well as our personal power – you never know when you need help or when you can help someone in need.
And last but not least, I would like to share one more piece of feedback from a course participant. ”Thank you for helping me to understand the impact and the consequences when wrongly using one approach. I have learned to use the right Influence Behavior with different people. This is very useful in my career and personal life. This is a life skill for me!”
The Positive Power & Influence® Program teaches us to plan for influence situations and overcome barriers. Let us take time to listen, disclose, and clarify, before jumping to conclusions when dealing with problems. Let us invest in networking and building positive and productive relationships with our stakeholders.
Yang Liu. East meets West
Hardcover, clothbound, 5.1 x 5.1 in., 100 pages
Multilingual Edition: Chinese, English
Mr. Eric Ng is the President of ESSN International Pte Ltd.