Have you ever been in a situation where you made a faux pas when communicating with someone of a different culture?
Leo Salazar definitely has. “I run into situations every single day of my life! Once you understand cultural differences, you become aware of them. It is through this awareness you are able to improve, to do better business,” explains the business coach and trainer.
Leo recounts a particularly memorable story his friend told him: “My friend, who was an Englishman, met a Malaysian CEO of a company that made aircraft parts,” he says. That CEO had been invited to the Boeing headquarters in LA to make a pitch. When asked how he would conduct the meeting, the CEO cheerily told of his plans to invite the Boeing CEO to play golf, and discuss business then.
“My friend immediately said: ‘You’re not going to get the deal!’” says Leo. The Englishman immediately advised his friend to ditch the golf plans, and instead bring in his best salesman to make the pitch. Long story short, disaster was averted and the company got the deal.
You see, the way Malaysians and Americans do business differs greatly. “In this case, cultural understanding intervened at the right time,” Leo says. “But not everyone is in the position to have that understanding.”
This realization led to the founding of his company, BRIL.Solutions. ‘BRIL’ stands for Better Results through Intercultural Learning. Through intercultural learning, he seeks to help businesses learn professional communication skills to engage with international clients and more importantly, avoid making unnecessary mistakes like he did before.
Central to understanding cultural differences is the ability to empathise with other people, no matter their background or viewpoint. One way to illustrate this is Leo’s own experiences reacting to Trump’s camp as an ardent Clinton supporter. “Whenever I read a quote from Trump or one of his people on the news, I would immediately think: ‘This is ridiculous!’” he shares. “Then I stopped myself, and thought: ‘Leo, use this as an exercise to become more culturally aware.’”
“Stop yourself, put on different glasses, and pretend it was written by someone from Hillary’s camp. See if you can find the value in what’s being said,” he explains.
Leo firmly believes that “Everyone has value. It isn’t the responsibility of others to prove their value to you. It is up to you as a true leader to search out the value in others.”
Are you finding the value in the people around you?