As we did further work and research, we discovered that these four “cultural” areas of differences manifest themselves in a unicultural environment as well. Even in a group of people who are of the same nationality and living in the same country, there are often differences in communication, values, decision-making processes and ideas of managing and management. These may be the result of socio-economic factors, education levels or even sometimes just personality differences. They may also be a result of thought patterns instilled from parents or family.
Different people integrate information in a variety of ways. Some learn best through listening, others through seeing. Some do best when they actively participate and do, while others perhaps do best with a combination of these approaches. Another question in today’s world is electronic communication versus phone or in-person (which will be influenced by generational factors to be sure).
In establishing a strong working relationship with your clients, find out about what style of communication works best for them in conveying important information. Questions to ask so as to generate dialogue around communication differences might be:
- Which methods of communication generally work best for you?
- Given your experience with other professionals, what foreseeable gaps might occur in our communication that might be troubling to you? How might we preempt them?
- In situations where we may need information from one another, what might be the best way of obtaining that?
- What do you think might cause misunderstandings and how should we best deal with them?
- Addressing such issues up front will help towards learning a good deal about your client’s communication “culture” and allow you to adapt accordingly.
Some discussion around what your client places particular value on is also important. Not all people value things equally. What we may see as a high-value priority, our clients may see as having lesser value. It is these differences in value that allow the marketplace to work effectively. If we all valued things equally, there would be no buying and selling!
Value differences could be manifest not just in terms of financial goals and objectives but also in terms of what kind of investments the client values. For example, some clients may be willing to forfeit return-on-investment within reason in order to feel that they are doing right by the environment. Others may want to advance medical research and invest in those kinds of opportunities even if the investments hold greater risk than others.