Working With People of Various Backgrounds

A handful of years ago, before the pandemic started, I had the opportunity to do a week’s worth of sales and leadership training for a group from Asia and Indonesia. I hadn’t done of lot of work with people from this part of the world and when I had they were usually part of a much bigger group. 

But this time it was just us, tucked in a small hotel conference room all day for several days. I was honored with outstanding feedback and comments about how much they learned that week. That was music to my ears. But here’s the other side of the story… no matter how much they learned from me, I learned more from them. 

I learned we had so much in common. Their lives, cultures and environments were all very different than what I had experienced growing up in suburban middle America. And yet as people, we had so much in common. Worries about our kids. Issues with our jobs, customers, the poor state of customer service. The lack of leadership from our country’s politicians was a common theme. 

On the business side the commonalities were even more plentiful. Difficult customers, price objections, poor employee moral and performance. The challenge to find good employees, adapting to changing marketplaces and the list went on and on. 

Aside from the fact that we looked a little different and one of us spoke with an American accent, we were, when it came down to it, almost identical. I suspect, actually I know, the same would be true for you. Even people we think are different than we are aren’t that different. 

Abraham Lincoln once said “ I really do not like that man, I must get to know him better.” Honest Abe understood that when you really know someone you’d be far more likely to understand their point of view. You’d also be less likely to dismiss it or dispute it. 

Today working with people of various backgrounds is essential in our diverse world. And as I’ve learned first hand it can lead to more productive and enriching experiences. It could lead to lasting relationships with people who are different but not so different than you. So here are a few ideas to help you effectively work with people from different backgrounds.

  • Educate yourself about different cultures, customs, and traditions. Be aware of potential cultural differences in communication styles, decision-making processes, and social norms. Avoid making assumptions based on stereotypes and treat each person as an individual.
  • Practice active listening when interacting with people from diverse backgrounds. Pay attention to their perspectives, concerns, and ideas without interrupting or judging. Show genuine interest in understanding their point of view.
  • Treat others with empathy and respect, regardless of their background. Show appreciation for their unique contributions and acknowledge their expertise. Create an inclusive environment where everyone feels valued.
  • Be flexible in your communication approach. Some individuals may prefer direct communication, while others might be more comfortable with indirect or indirect forms. Pay attention to verbal and non-verbal cues to gauge the most effective way to communicate.
  • Misunderstandings are inevitable when working with people from diverse backgrounds. If an issue arises, address it promptly and respectfully. Seek to understand the root of the problem and work together to find a solution.
  • Be mindful of the language and behavior you use. Avoid offensive jokes, slurs, or insensitive comments that might alienate or hurt others. Foster an atmosphere of inclusivity and acceptance. If there is one thing I learned the hard way it was that my humor didn’t always translate well. 
  • Embrace the opportunity to learn from others. Recognize that everyone has unique experiences and knowledge to offer. Be open to expanding your horizons and gaining new insights.
  • So I used to think that this whole “unconscious bias” stuff was some HR stuff or the stuff consultants are made of. I was wrong, it’s very real. We don’t even realize that our life experiences lead us to think a certain way. Not realizing why we thing the way we think causes the “un” part of unconscious bias. So recognize and challenge your unconscious biases. We all have biases that affect our perceptions and judgments. Acknowledging them allows us to make more objective decisions and treat everyone fairly.
  • In times of conflict, focus on the issues at hand rather than making it personal. Practice constructive conflict resolution. Try to understand each other’s perspectives to find common ground. The number one goal in conflict resolution should be to make certain all the parties involved maintain their self respect. 
  • Take the time to build strong relationships with your colleagues or team members. This builds trust and camaraderie, leading to more effective collaboration. It makes work, and life, more fun.

Working with people of various backgrounds can enrich our lives and enhance our ability to tackle complex challenges. Embrace the differences. Strive to create an environment where everyone feels valued for the simple reason that they are indeed, valuable.

When you use these ideas it’s actually possible you could even learn to work with, and even genuinely like, a Green Bay Packers fan. As outrageous as that sounds I can state unequivocally it’s true. 🙂

Want more of LeadToday? I’ve changed things up on my Twitter feed for subscribers. I recently began publishing two or three videos each week focusing on an element of Authentic Leadership. I’ll post these videos each Tuesday and Thursday morning. Sometimes a bonus video pops up at other times during the week. They will be about 10 minutes long so we can get into the topic in a more meaningful way. The investment for subscribers in still only $4.99 a month. That’s for at least 80 MINUTES of quality video content on leadership a month.

If you’re interested in taking a look, head on over to my Twitter profile page. If you’re not a follower yet just hit the follow button. It will change to a subscribe button and once you hit that you’re on your way. You can cancel at any time you’ve decided you have nothing left to learn about leading the people who you count on for your success.

Here’s the link to my Twitter…