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Navigating Global Relationships

Navigating Global Relationships written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

 The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast with John Jantsch In this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I interviewed Andy Molinsky, a distinguished professor at Brandeis University’s International Business School. With a Ph.D. in organizational behavior and a master’s in psychology from Harvard University, Andy is renowned for his expertise in cross-cultural communication and […]

Navigating Global Relationships written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast with John Jantsch

In this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I interviewed Andy Molinsky, a distinguished professor at Brandeis University’s International Business School. With a Ph.D. in organizational behavior and a master’s in psychology from Harvard University, Andy is renowned for his expertise in cross-cultural communication and global workplace dynamics. His research and writing has been featured in Harvard Business Review, Inc. Magazine, Psychology Today, the Financial Times, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal and his latest book Forging Bonds in a Global Workforce: Build Rapport, Camaraderie, and Optimal Performance No Matter the Time Zone.

Key Takeaways

Join Andy Molinsky as he navigates the complexities of global relationships, emphasizing the pivotal role of cultural understanding in fostering effective collaboration across time zones. Through genuine curiosity and respect for cultural differences, individuals can transcend barriers and cultivate authentic connections. Andy highlights the importance of making informed first impressions, navigating small talk nuances, and addressing hidden biases to foster mutual understanding. By integrating cultural awareness into business practices, particularly in distributed teams, organizations can promote inclusivity and harness the power of diverse perspectives for enhanced collaboration and resilience in today’s globalized world.


Questions I ask Andy Molinsky:

[00:51] What are the inherent big challenges in working across time zones?

[02:17] Where does understanding cultural nuances play out in relationship building?

[05:53] How crucial is first impressions in forging bonds?

[10:16] What are some of the actions that teams can do in implementing multiple cultures as an asset that can benefit company culture?

[13:38] What impact do you think the current political trend will have in forging cultural bonds?

[17:18] Where can people connect with you, learn more about your work and pick a copy of your book?


More About Andy Molinsky:


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Connect with John Jantsch on LinkedIn


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(00:08): Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch. My guest today is Andy Molinsky. He’s a professor at Brandeis University’s International Business School with a joint appointment in the Department of Psychology. Andy received his PhD in organizational behavior and a master’s in psychology from Harvard University. His research and writing has been featured in publications such as Harvard Business Review, Inc Magazine and the New York Times. We’re going to talk about his latest book, forging Bonds in a Global Workplace, build Rapport, comradery, and Optimal Performance no matter The Time Zone. So Andy, welcome back to the show. Thanks for having me. Glad to be here. So let’s start with the big picture. What are the inherent big challenges in working across time zones? Gosh, there are lots. I think that the biggest challenge in terms of building relationships across time zones, I think in terms of that, I think there are two core challenges.

(01:05): The first is understanding differences, cultural differences, and anyone listening has probably read an article, heard something about cultural differences, about how people from this culture tend to do this and people from this other culture tend to do this, and that’s fair. That can cause misperceptions, misunderstandings, and so on. And it’s really important to be aware of those. In our new book we certainly talk about that, but we also talk about the flip side, which is now that you’ve recognized the differences and you’ve avoided the misperceptions, how then can you actually create the connections? Because when in our own culture, the way we build relationships in our own culture isn’t just by maniacally avoiding difference. That’s not how you build a connection. Yeah, that’s interesting though, because in your own culture, the differences maybe are maybe subtle, whereas there complete cultural differences. I remember one time I was with a group and we were in an international audience, and it was a gentleman from Japan that came up and was introduced to the group and he does the whole, you’ve probably seen people talk about the whole ritual with the business card and the person that he presented to just took it and stuck in his pocket and everybody you could see, everybody just was like, what do we do now?

(02:12): So those are kind of the things that I think people tend to think about, but really where do they actually play out in terms of relationship building? Well, I think that by the way, I wouldn’t discount something like that because the importance of something like that is that if someone’s not aware of the cultural difference, they could draw conclusions very quickly about the person that they don’t care about us, that they’re not respectful, they don’t like our culture and so on. That can pretty much short circuit relationship before it starts. But in our research, so we interviewed a hundred people from around the world for this new book, and we found we ultimately found six different kind of dimensions along which relationship building differs. I mean, I could mention a couple. Yeah, give maybe an example or two of a couple of ’em. That’s probably usually that’s more Sure, yeah, yeah, yeah.

(03:01): So one’s power who can have a relationship with whom? So for instance, in certain let’s say hierarchical cultures, like let’s say Korea, you were taught your whole life to respect authority, be deferential, be polite, and so when you’re in a Korean workplace, you’re not going to chit chat about the weather or last night’s baseball game with your boss. It’s just not going to happen. Whereas in the US it’s a much flatter, less hierarchical society. And then if you travel over to Scandinavia, you’re going to get even flatter. So power, power is definitely one thing to be attuned to. Another one is on that, I wanted to interrupt another example. I was in a small middle Eastern country for an event and there were a lot of dignitaries at the event in kind of a preconference. And it was interesting to me as somebody new would come in who was maybe perceived to be a higher up the run diplomatically, people would literally get up and rearrange chairs because that person got to sit closer to the esteemed guest or something.

(04:01): So those are the types of, I mean that’s a definite example, right, of that type of structure. Absolutely. And it’s so important to try to step inside the logic of that other culture if you can, because that then, and to be curious about it, right? I think our instinct often is to think that’s different. For me, that’s weird. But if you can just take a beat and be curious about it, I think that’s key for ask questions about it, be curious. And that actually in and of itself, sometimes cultural differences if you approach them in sort of a curious, interested, respectful way, can themselves be the seeds of a connection that can grow discussing them. I’ll just give you one other example is pacing, pacing speed. So in certain relationships, I’m sorry, in certain cultures you can build relationships very quickly. In Brazil for instance, people will, well, this actually blends two of the dimensions.

(05:00): So this example I’ll talk to you about is blends the notion of pacing but also privacy. And so in Brazil you might talk very quickly about very personal things you might be, whereas in another culture, like say Germany, you’re not as apt to talk about the personal side of things, at least initially. And it can take a very long time in terms of the pacing. And again, there’s nothing bad or good about that inherently, but what’s challenging is that if you’re not aware of it and you don’t respect and understand it and can’t step inside the logic of that culture, you can misperceive it and draw very quick conclusions about the other person. And that can be a relationship killer. So when it comes to somebody who is maybe for the first time interacting, there’s a lot of first impression stuff. I mean that happens no matter what in relationships.

(05:52): So is it important to make that first impression by understanding the cultural differences? Say even in things like you mentioned small talk for example. I mean, should I go into a meeting going, oh, I need to have a little information about this small talk that we’re going to do. So generic advice is always really hard, but I also think it’s really important, so I’m not going to sidestep the question. So what I would say is that I think it’s important to do your homework to try to understand what might be the case in the other culture. And I really emphasize and double click on the might because not everyone’s going to be characteristic of that culture. You’re going to, you might go to Germany, you might go to Korea, you might go anywhere and you might meet someone who spent 20 years in Australia or 10 years in the us.

(06:42): So I think what you want to come in with is kind of like a guess a hypothesis and be ready to have a disconfirm. I think it’s also good to show genuine curiosity and interest. I think that travels genuine curiosity and interest travels. So I think those are two things. In terms of small talk in particular, we actually just published a Harvard Business Review article about small talk. In doing the book, we did a parallel study of small talk across cultures. So key and what we found is that small talk is I would say quasi universal. It’s not universal. There are some cultures, some situations, again, in Korea for instance, Koreans don’t tend to make small talk that frequently and certainly in a power relationship, you’re not going to be making small talk with your boss most likely. Whereas in other cultures, small talk is just part of the culture.

(07:39): Like in Mexico, in Brazil, in Latin America, south America, the US small talk is very common. And then in some other cultures it is common but maybe less common and so on. But the point that I want to make is that when you’re doing business in a global multicultural, cosmopolitan context with people who themselves have had exposure to different countries and cultures, you are operating under a global code sort of. So it’s a little bit different. And now a word from our sponsor, work better now. Work better now provides outstanding talent from Latin America, hand matched to your business with over 40 roles across various industries, including marketing. They’re a reliable partner for consistently finding the perfect fit for your business. Simply tell them what you need and they’ll handle the rest. We have two work better now, professionals on our team, a marketing assistant and a marketing coordinator, and we’ve been blown away by their abilities, responsiveness and professionalism.

(08:39): They’ve really become an essential part of our growing team. And to top it off, each dedicated and full-time work better Now professional is 2350 per month and there are no contracts to schedule a 15 minute consultation with a work better now rep and see how they’ll support your business growth goals, visit work better, mention the referral code DTM podcast, and you’re going to get $150 off for your first three months. That’s work better And don’t forget that DTM podcast code. So what role do hidden biases play this? All Americans just want to get to the sale. They don’t want to build a relationship. I mean, whatever. Absolutely. I mean, I think a good hack actually is to be aware of the hidden bias that people might have of your culture and to try to disconfirm it, try to act kind of against it in some ways, and then also to be aware of hidden biases that you might have of other cultures.

(09:44): I don’t think it’s a problem to have to, everyone has hidden biases. That’s what psychology research teaches us. We all have them. The question is how aware are we of them and how hard do we work to really to not let them interfere with our relationship building. So increasingly, myself included, I have a small team of about 16, 17, and we are in about eight countries and increasingly we are trying to blend the culture. I mean these are multi-cultures, but we have a culture as a business. So what are some of the actions or maybe even habits or rituals that companies, particularly since we’re not getting together in meeting rooms so much anymore can do to do what I just talked about, take multiple culturals, use it as an asset to actually benefit the company culture. I think it’s really important in the case that you’re talking about with these globally distributed teams to build in time to sort of put relationship building on the agenda.

(10:44): If it’s not on the official agenda, it’s on the mind of the leader. It’s on the mind of the person who’s organizing the meeting that there’s built in time to actually build connections. And those can happen in small little bits at the beginning of a meeting. They also can happen asynchronously, in other words, not in the meeting itself. So I’ll give you an example. I have a very small team and we have a certification course based on my first book, global Dexterity, where we certify people in this idea of global dexterity and we’ve created on Slack, which is a common messaging and work platform, we created a channel in our workspace called, I think it’s called Photos and Fun or something like that. And that very quickly became the most popular channel and people sort of on an asynchronous way were posting pictures. I mean, it took a little courage to get a kickstarted, but after a while it became a great place because then people would refer to that even in our live calls and so on.

(11:45): And so I think on a team you’re talking about, I think that’s really important. I think also showing respect to showing respect to people in another culture of their time zone even, which is that not all the meetings prioritize the American time zone, the east coast time zone let’s say. And that’s a very common default on a team and that can cause a lot of latent frustration and anger. What I think I hear you saying is that a lot of this team building as people may be called it at some point, really the focus is to get deeper engagement than just like, here’s the agenda for the meeting or here’s what we want to accomplish and next month’s rollout or whatever the topic may be. So you’re talking about intentionally going beyond on the surface, and there’s a real reason for that because I think that increases the odds that you’re going to have trust and when when someone does do something that disconfirms your expectations, if someone does deviate, it’s maybe built on a solid foundation of trust and connection.

(12:58): So that doesn’t ruin the relationship. But that might even inspire a conversation. And since people already have some degree of connection, the cultural differences can potentially actually be a source of learning as opposed to a ticking time bomb. And that’s why I think that the relationship building ends up being really critical. I’m probably going to venture outside of your thesis in your book, but I want to go down just a little bit of a different path. There’s no question we are a global economy. People are, what you’re talking about in your book is important for anybody in a career, but we’re also maybe at a point in history where there’s a little bit of nationalization going on as opposed to globalization. What impact do you think that current political, which again, I’m not saying it’s everywhere, everyone, but that current political trend, if you will, is impacting this idea.

(13:54): Say more about what you mean by nationalization. Just a little bit of the, you see, I’ll use the United States for example, but there are certainly some European countries that are going through that right now, A move towards the right that does include a little bit of American made and don’t go outside the borders. A little bit of that. Well, I just heard this morning actually on the radio, and this is of course, I don’t know when people will listen to this, but I just heard this morning that the Netherlands, I didn’t know much about the politics in the Netherlands, but there’s sort of an anti-immigrant bent to the current policies right now in 2024 in March, and A SML, which is one of the biggest companies in Europe and one of the most important companies in the world actually in the semiconductor industry is thinking of leaving the Netherlands. So there you go.

(14:47): I think that the nationalism that you do see, like America First Made in America and so on, I mean, this is just my opinion, but around it runs counter to the history of this country, which is born on immigrants. All of us are immigrants who knew? So every one of us, not every one of us, I suppose the Native Americans and their ancestors, but everyone else are immigrants. And so I think that’s really important to remember. And I think the countries that, this is just my opinion, but I think that the countries who recognize that and recognize that power of diversity recognize the potential benefits to their workforce, I think that’s just going to be a source of strength and it ultimately is a liability, I think economically. No question. That’s my 2 cents anyway. So talk to the millennials or I don’t know, they’re getting old now, the Gen Z that could look at this as, would you look at this as mastering these skills as a career skill that somebody should add to just like programming language?

(15:53): I think so. I think part of the problem is that a lot of the stuff, I have a PhD in organizational behavior and psychology and people will often say, oh, it’s really squishy, and let’s say MBA students, they maybe want to avoid our classes and take the STEM classes and the hardcore quant classes. But what’s funny is that when they come back for executive education, it’s not the STEM classes they’re looking for, it’s the leadership classes and it’s all the people stuff. Because what people realize is that in order to get that first job, you do need those quant skills. You need those hard skills, but to keep your job to succeed at your job to all that stuff, it’s the softer stuff, softer sounds, pejorative. It’s more the subtler stuff. It’s more the interpersonal stuff. And so that’s why I think that stuff is critical.

(16:43): That’s part of my mission. I want to try to help people, and that’s the entire reason that I write books. So I could, as a professor, I’m a tenured professor, I could just continue writing articles in the dusty shelves of academic journals, but that’s not my purpose. I want to try to actually impact people in the world and give people resources like that. So I really actually strongly believe in that. Yeah, it’s funny you call it the softer things. I think it’s really just developing a level of self-awareness is really where it starts if you’re going to be a leader. So Andy, you want, I appreciate you stopping by the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. You want to tell people where they might find more about you, your work, and obviously forging bonds? Yeah, sure. So I guess the easiest place is either my website or LinkedIn. I’m pretty active on LinkedIn, so you can find me on LinkedIn, Andy Molinsky, and my website’s andy So pretty easy. Maybe it’ll be in the show notes and you can find me there and kind of go from there. Awesome. Again, appreciate you taking a few moments, and hopefully we’ll run into you one of these days out there on the road.

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